When brushing your teeth two or three times a day, flossing regularly and using mouthwash does not give you fresh breath, the problem may involve insufficient saliva flow in your mouth. A common medical condition called xerostomia, or dry mouth, causes millions of people to suffer from chronic symptoms such as:
- Thick, stringy saliva
- Burning, even painful tongue
- Scratchy, sore throat
- Cracked, dry lips that may bleed
- Severe halitosis
The reason why dry mouth causes bad breath is due to the rapid, continuous growth of anaerobic bacteria within the oral cavity. These bacteria excrete vast amounts of smelly, sulfurous gases called “volatile sulfur compounds” containing a variety of odor-causing elements like putrescine (smells like decaying meat), hydrogen sulfide (smells like rotten eggs) and dimethyl sulfide (smells like cabbage).
Mouth debris comprised of food particles, mucus and even blood (if the person has bleeding gums due to gingivitis), is rich in proteins that anaerobic bacteria love to eat. Digestion of these proteins by the bacteria produces the volatile sulfur gases that give individuals bad breath. Dry mouth conditions in which saliva flow is affected by gland dysfunction or breathing through the mouth are highly attractive to anaerobic bacteria. When a mouth is overwhelmed with bacteria, fresh breath is impossible to attain.
The word “anaerobic” indicates an organism that dislikes oxygen. In a dry mouth where the scarcity of saliva does not facilitate oxygen movement throughout the mouth and throat, anaerobes like mouth bacteria collect and accumulate on the tongue, in the back of the throat, in between teeth and on the line where teeth and gums meet. Conducive to allowing the colonization of the mouth by sulfurous bacteria, these areas also tend to be places where most mouth debris fails to be removed by brushing or rinsing.
How the Tongue Contributes to Bad Breath
Because the tongue is covered with spongy, minute crevices that separate hundreds of taste buds, anaerobic bacteria have access to perfect little hideaways in which to burrow and happily consume a never-ending supply of food particles entering the mouth. That white paste everyone sees on his or her tongue in the morning or when their mouth is extremely dry is a thick layer of bacteria munching away on microscopic proteins, and the odorous byproducts they excrete.
Scraping or brushing the tongue, along with brushing and flossing teeth, may provide fresh breath temporarily. However, eliminating chronic halitosis requires using special oral hygiene products that do not contain alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfate (a harsh foaming agent) or saccharin.
Some of the worst home remedies for halitosis involve use of products that actually exacerbate dry mouth. These include:
- Excessively rinsing the mouth with mouthwash. Some brand name mouthwashes contain sodium lauryl sulfate, an abrasive substance that can slough off gum and cheek tissue and contribute to the amount of mouth debris and lead to canker sores
- Sucking on breath mints or chewing gum that are no more than candies disguised as bad breath remedies due to their sugar content
- Using overly strong mouthwashes containing alcohol will actually worsen a dry mouth condition and provide bacteria with an even better environment in which to proliferate
- Believing the old folk rumor that bad breath originates in the intestines and that going on a “cleansing fast” will give you fresh breath. Halitosis comes from anaerobic bacteria living in the throat and mouth, not the digestive system
Additionally, most toothpastes do not contain zinc or chlorine dioxide (an antibacterial substance), two compounds necessary for the eradication of anaerobic bacteria and bad breath. Brushing with most over the counter toothpastes may remove food particles and inhibit plaque growth on teeth but it does not kill bacteria that emit foul-smelling sulfur gases.
Fortunately, a famous bacteriologist and dentist named Dr. Katz has invented a line of products called TheraBreath made for people who consistently experience halitosis no matter how much they brush or rinse. TheraBreath toothpaste, mouthwashes, mints, sprays and gum do not contain alcohol, saccharin or sodium lauryl sulfate that contribute to dry mouth, bacterial growth and bad breath. Instead, all ingredients found in Dr. Katz’s products specifically target enhancing saliva flow, oral oxygenation and the extermination of anaerobic bacteria.
Fresh Breath and Tonsil Stones
Tonsil stones, or tonsilloliths, develop in tiny fissures covering the surface of tonsils and produce horrible bad breath in people who frequently suffer bouts of tonsillitis. Comprised of accumulated mouth debris, mucus and bacteria, tonsil stones are calcified, white, irregularly shaped pieces that are usually visible upon examination of the back of the throat.
Although tonsilloliths can be dislodged with a toothbrush and cause only minor physical symptoms, tonsil stones are capable of producing some of the worst smelling breath due to the bacterial nature of the stones. If they disintegrate naturally or are accidentally bitten, the concentrated mass of sulfurous bacterial wastes and decaying food particles contained in a tonsil stone generates an extremely foul and embarrassing odor.
Anyone Can Have Fresh Breath
Knowing that the cause of chronic bad breath is anaerobic bacteria, mouth debris and lack of saliva leads to a better understanding of the sort of products needed to effectively eliminate halitosis and a dry mouth condition. A greater awareness of the importance of using alcohol-free and detergent-free mouthwashes as well as toothpastes containing sodium fluoride, xylitol and other natural ingredients will provide you with the fresh breath and clean-tasting mouth you have always wanted.