We have all had to endure someone else’s bad breath at one point in time. While logically we know that the foul odor is harmless to us, there is just something about it that makes most of us inwardly cringe. Perhaps it is your boss, or a friend that you don’t know quite well enough yet to point it out to them. Or your partner, sleeping beside you serenely with their mouth wide open blissfully ignorant of pushing foul fumes to your side of the bed. While we have little control over the breath-smells of those around us, fortunately there is much we can do to ensure we are keeping our own breath-hygiene in peak condition.
Why do certain foods cause bad breath?
I’m an avid garlic lover. I liven almost all food I prepare with it. Ever wonder why, then, garlic smells so amazing, unless we detect it on someone else’s breath? As it turns out, bad breath from most foods (including garlic) starts when the food begins breaking down inside our bodies, specifically our mouth and our stomach. Food begins to be broken down by the enzymes and bacteria in our mouth virtually immediately. Generally speaking though, unless a food clump becomes stuck in our mouth somewhere, only a limited, low level of unpleasant odor is produced. The real culprit is actually our stomachs. As is the case with many other foods, garlic is broken down by stomach acid, in to sulphides, vitamins, and minerals. For up to 24 hours, these sulphides in particular continue to emanate odor throughout our digestive system and throat, eventually making their way out of our mouths in what we refer to as ‘bad breath.’ In short, it is not garlic itself that causes bad breath, but the interactions inside our stomachs in particular that break down certain foods in to components that most people find quite unpleasant to smell.
A cure for garlic breath?
Interestingly, a study in 2016 in the Journal of Food Science actually studied the effects of bad breath, and different foods that might help mitigate the unpleasant odors generated in the stomach. The study found that apples, lettuce, and peppermint all contained compounds that bound to sulphides in the stomach, and as a result significantly reduced the odors that would have otherwise resulted in bad breath. Now you know what to eat with your favourite garlic meal!
Halitosis: bad breath and your health
For some people, bad breath can be a chronic condition. This is generally referred to as ‘halitosis.’ While most of us think that bad breath can be annoying at worst, many who experience halitosis for prolonged periods experience anxiety, and even depression. Unlike food-related bad breath, halitosis is almost always related to mouth health. Gum disease, tooth decay, and several other mouth related causes can create a long-term odor condition,
How can I tell if I have halitosis?
Self-diagnosing halitosis can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. We all have different notions for how bad we think our breath should be, and some even figure if they can’t taste anything bad in their mouths they must not have bad breath (this is not true!). If you believe your condition is serious, there are actually instruments that measure the presence of sulfides and other odor producing compounds in your mouth. There are even health professional specifically trained to detect certain scents in a person’s breath and what they may mean to your overall health. For an initial and informal diagnosis, most people ask a close friend or family member! Given that 85-90% of halitosis related issues originate in the mouth, a visit to your dentist is also naturally a great place to start. If you are concerned, Stonegate dental offers a complete oral examination that covers possible causes of halitosis and much more.
It is estimated that over a billion dollars a year is spent in the United States on products such as mouthwash that are used to mask chronic bad breath. While helpful, these products are generally cosmetic and rarely address the source of the issue. If it is established that the cause of your halitosis is mouth-based, your diagnosis will also include the primary reason(s) for the issue. These typically include either tongue or gum related conditions that cause chronic odor. At Stonegate Dental, we will offer you a comprehensive rehabilitation plan that includes diagnosis, initial treatment, and developing an ongoing plan that will at worst manage the problem and at best eradicate it completely. If your causes are mouth-based (as they mainly are), we are equipped to deal with the issue. If not, our trained staff will make a referral to your family doctor or the appropriate specialist.
Prevention: your first line of defense is you!
Great oral hygiene prevents many forms of halitosis from establishing in the first place. Daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular check-ups, can generally address halitosis before it begins, or prevent it from becoming a larger issue. If you are looking for a dentist, or are thinking about making a switch, we invite you to check out why Stonegate is one of the highest rated dentists in Guelph.