PureInsight | January 2, 2008
Are you having trouble getting a second date? Do friends back away when
you're speaking to them? Has your faithful dog started to sit on the
other side of the room?
If so, you may be suffering from halitosis. But before you lose your
last friend, there are ways to fight this problem. A good start is to
take the blueberry test. It will also help to save your teeth. More on
the blueberry test later.
I've often thought that being a dentist must be an awful job if your
patient has halitosis. How can the dentist back away while doing a root
canal? Or how can singers facing each other still smile when one of
them has halitosis? But the reverse can also be true. Years ago, I
suffered a dentist whose breath in my face was agony. No one had the
intestinal fortitude to tell him to seek advice.
Bad breath can be due to a variety of problems ranging from minor to
the serious. Emotions play a role. For instance, sexual excitement may
be associated with halitosis, and prisoners about to be executed often
have foul breath.
People with untreated diabetes exhibit a sweet, fruity odor to their
breath. And a fishy or mousy odor is often present in the final stages
of liver disease.
A number of mouth and throat conditions can trigger halitosis. Infected
gums are often associated with halitosis. Sinus infections can
discharge bad-smelling mucus into the back of the throat. Infected
tonsils and bronchitis can similarly trigger a troublesome odor. And I
recall a 5-year-old child who years ago suffered from bad breath.
Eventually a cause was discovered - he had stuck a bean up his nose
But normally bad breath occurs when sulfur-containing amino acids (the
building blocks of protein) are broken down by bacteria that thrive in
an oxygen-free environment. This produces a mix of malodorous gases.
Eating foods such as onions and garlic is well known to trigger the
back-away syndrome. After these foods are digested and absorbed into
the bloodstream, they're carried to the lungs and add odor to the
breath until eliminated from the body. One-billionth of an ounce of
onion can be detected by our sense of smell.
The Journal of the American Medical Association states that the
too-frequent use of selenium can cause halitosis. Selenium sulfide is
used to treat dandruff. This chemical is also found in some lipsticks.
Some people have smaller amounts of saliva, which normally helps to
cleanse the mouth. Inadequate amounts of saliva allow dead cells to
accumulate on the tongue and gums, which then causes an odor. Since the
mouth becomes drier during sleep, this accounts for that
less-than-fresh morning breath. Smoking and certain medications also
decrease the amount of saliva.
As well, "morning breath" isn't helped by a big night on the town the
night before. Alcohol has practically no odor. It's the other
ingredients in alcoholic beverages that make you turn your head from
the stale smell of over-indulgence.
The primary way to battle halitosis is to start with improved dental
hygiene. But this doesn't mean just brushing your teeth three times a
day after meals. Friends may still turn their heads if you don't
include the blueberry test.
The blueberry test consists of eating a bowl of blueberries and then
brushing your teeth 10 times. Follow with flossing. You will stare in
amazement at the many bits of blueberries still trapped between your
teeth. This is where bad breath begins.
Be sure to brush the tongue too, which most people fail to do. The
tongue contains deep furrows where debris collects and gases hover.
The blueberry test allows you to see trapped food particles between
your teeth and remove them. This not only helps to prevent halitosis,
but also helps to save your gums from gingivitis, which in turn saves
your teeth from falling out later in life.
I hope this column saves some readers from losing a friend. But suppose
a friend has halitosis. What should you do? Some people advise sending
an anonymous e-mail. Or you could follow Donald Trump's
straight-talking approach. During an interview with Larry King, Trump
remarked, "Do you mind if I sit back a little? Your breath is very bad."