ALMOST nine out of ten adults suffer with halitosis at some time in their life, according to new research. For one in four people, it’s a chronic condition. Although it can be tackled successfully, many try to cover up the odour rather than treat the underlying problem.
The A to Z of beating bad breath.
ARTIFICIAL SALIVA: Produced at a rate of one to two pints a day, saliva fights bacteria, one of the main causes of bad breath. Some people do not produce enough but artificial substitutes are available as solutions, sprays and gels. They contain compounds designed to increase lubrication, as well as calcium, phosphate and fluoride.
BAKING SODA: Modern research shows that this old-fashioned remedy really does work. Its success lies in its ability to change acidity levels in the mouth, making it a less friendly environment for bacteria. Traditionally, it was mixed with water to form a paste or sprinkled as a powder on to the toothbrush. Today, it is incorporated in some toothpastes.
CHEWING: The best way to stimulate saliva and combat bad breath. Research at the University of California shows that chewing a sugarless gum for 20 minutes will substantially reduce levels of bacteria. Eating breakfast is the most effective way of combating ‘morning breath’. Chewing mint, cloves or fennel seeds may also help.
DIET: Research suggests that a high-fat and meat diet may contribute to bad breath. One theory is that these foods are high in the protein that bacteria thrive on. Research also shows that coffee contains high levels of acids, which may cause the bacteria to reproduce more rapidly. So brush your teeth after eating or drinking milk products, fish and meat. Dieters are at risk of developing unpleasant breath because of infrequent eating.
EUCALYPTUS: This is rich in cineole, a potent antiseptic that kills the bacteria responsible for bad breath. It is available in tincture form but is also an ingredient in many mouthwashes. One report showed that bacterial counts plummet in as little as 30 seconds after using a commercial mouth rinse containing the volatile oils eucalyptol, from eucalyptus, and thymol, from thyme, which both work against bacteria.
FLOSSING: Cleaning between the teeth once a day removes plaque and bacteria from areas where a toothbrush can’t reach. Wind 12in of floss around a finger on each hand. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Always follow the line of the tooth and move the floss up and down to avoid damaging the gum — don’t use a sawing motion.
GREEN TEA: Scientists have identified polyphenols in green tea as the compounds that can prevent the growth of microbes responsible for bad breath as well the bacteria’s production of odorous gases. They reduce by 30 per cent the activities of enzymes that are responsible for the hydrogen sulphide smell of bad breath. And rinsing the mouth with black tea can reduce plaque formation and the acids that cause tooth decay.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: This can more than halve the amount of one of the compounds linked to bad breath. A rinse with a hydrogen peroxide solution reduced the sulphur gas concentrations of morning breath for eight hours.
INTERDENTAL CLEANER: Cleaning between the teeth once a day with interdental cleaners (disposable mini brushes, picks or sticks) removes plaque from between the teeth where a normal toothbrush can’t reach.
JUICE (WHEATGRASS): A good source of chlorophyll, a natural antiseptic, it has been shown to be useful in tackling bad breath and other body odours. The most popular way of consuming wheatgrass is juicing, which is preferable to chewing the raw grass.
KYOLIC GARLIC: A recent survey found that garlic breath is the most disliked mouth smell in the UK. That used to be a problem for those who want the health benefits of garlic but don’t like its taste or breath smell. The 20-month ageing technique used in processing Kyolic garlic gets rid of the odourcausing compounds.
LASERS: A team of doctors in Israel found that a laser was able to cure 51 out of 53 patients suffering from severe halitosis caused by the tonsils becoming infected with gasproducing bacteria. The treat-ment vaporised the problem area without causing damage to surrounding tissue.
MOUTHWASHES: Rinses and washes date back to ancient times. They eliminate the bugs responsible for bad breath while preserving the normal protective bacteria. The best time to use a mouth rinse is just before you go to bed. Because bad breath often originates from the back of the tongue, it is best to gargle with the mouth rinse.
NEW BACTERIA: People who suffer from bad breath could lack good bacteria that will keep out bad-smelling micro-organisms. Scientists in Boston have created a strain of genetically modified good bacteria, leading them to suggest that mouths could be kept fresh with the use of probiotic rather than anti-bacterial mouthwashes.
OXIDISING LOZENGES: Researchers in Israel who compared the benefits of oxidising lozenges with breath mints and chewing gum found that the lozenges came out top. Tests after 24 hours showed that only the full- strength oxidising lozenge significantly reduced bad odour. Just how they work is not clear, but one clue is that bacteria thrive in an environment where there is little or no oxygen — the lozenges have an oxidising effect on the surfaces of the mouth.
PARSLEY: Chlorophyll, a natural compound found in parsley and green vegetables, has an antiseptic effect, and stops the growth of toxic bacteria and acid. So chewing leafy vegetables is an effective way of combating mouth odours.
QUEEN BEE FOOD: Royal jelly, which is fed only to the queen bee, has been found to have an anti-bacterial effect. Similar bee and honey products work in a similar way to combat bugs and infections. Products based on propolis — a sticky substance collected by bees which protects them infection — have been shown to protect against halitosis and some types of ulcers.
RHUBARB: This traditional laxative can also be used to treat bad breath. It is particularly effective when mouth odour is linked to stomach problems or constipation.
SULPHIDE MONITOR: This device is used to measure the amount of smelly compounds in the breath. An electro-chemical sensor generates a signal when it is exposed to sulphide and other gases, and measures the concentration of hydrogen sulphide gas. Less scientific methods for self-diagnosis include breathing on the back of the hand and blowing onto a moist ball of cotton wall or into a bag.
TONGUE SCRAPER: Almost nine out of ten cases of halitosis originate in the mouth, and half are caused by tongue residues. Scraping can get rid of debris and volatile sulphur compounds, or VSCs, and so stop bad breath. In an Italian trial with patients aged 20 to 50, one group used a scraper and a second used a soft toothbrush on the tongue. The scraper resulted in a 75 per cent reduction in VSCs, compared to 45 per cent for the toothbrush.
ULCER TREATMENT: Halitosis can be a clue to other health problems, including infection with H. pylori, a common bacteria that has been shown to be the main cause of stomach ulcers. Researchers who treated 148 patients to eradicate the infection found it also got rid of halitosis.
VITAMINS: An important part in healing mouth and gum disease and in preventing bleeding gums is played by vitamin C. It also gets rid of excess mucus and toxins that can cause bad breath. Vitamin A aids in the control of infection and in healing.
WATER: A dry mouth has six times as many sulphur compounds as a moist one. Drink adequate amounts and hold in the mouth for as long as possible, swishing vigorously.
XEROSTOMIA THERAPY: Dry mouth — which is technically called xerostomia — can be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or by breathing continuously through the mouth. Xerostomia therapy involves breathing through the nose, keeping the mouth moist and avoiding alcohol, which tends to dry the mouth.
YEAST INFECTION TREAT-MENT: Halitosis and white-coated tongues can be symptoms of candida albicans or yeast infection. Candida is present in the mouths of almost half of the population, but it is not a problem until there is a change in the oral chemistry that allows it to thrive at the expense of other micro-organisms. These changes can occur for a variety of reasons, including taking antibiotics. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment is usually with anti-fungal medicines.
ZINC: Clinical trials have found that mouth rinses and chewing gum containing zinc help beat bad breath by reducing the concentration of oral volatile sulphur compounds for three hours. It’s thought that zinc stops an enzyme from breaking down an amino acid that makes the sulphur.