It’s Easy For People to Tell if Their Own Breath Smells
Many believe they can smell their own breath odor by cupping their hands between their mouth and nose. Unfortunately, we can not tell if our breath smells because we become accustomed to our own odors. Additionally, in many cases, we do not produce bad breath until we talk. This is because bad breath often originates near the back of the mouth and is propelled forward and out of the mouth only when we speak.
How can we tell if our breath smells ? One of the best ways is to have a trusted friend or loved one smell it for you. If you don’t want to do this, wipe near the middle of your tongue with a cotton ball or gauze pad. Then smell the cotton ball or gauze pad for odor. A more accurate assessment of bad breath can be performed by a dentist using a device called a halimeter. The patient blows into a straw like tube attached to the halimeter and the machine measures the amount of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) in the breath. These volatile sulfur compounds are what give breath its bad smell.
A common misperception is that bad breath arises from the stomach. While an extremely small percentage of bad breath problems may be due to stomach and digestive problems, the overwhelming majority of bad breath arises from the back of the mouth. Here bacteria feed on mucus and food particles creating odorous sulfur compounds.
Good dental hygiene (brushing and flossing) helps eliminate bad breath. Unfortunately, most people do not properly brush their teeth. It takes nearly three minutes to completely brush all tooth surfaces yet most people spend only 30 to 45 seconds brushing their teeth. Consequently, they consistently miss tooth surfaces where bacteria are allowed to proliferate and create odorous volatile sulfur compounds.
People can brush and floss properly, however, and still be unsuccessful at eliminating bad breath. The problem is that odor causing bacteria often hide deep within the crevices of the tongue under a protective layer of mucus and proteins. Cleaning the tongue with a tongue cleaner (also called a tongue scraper) can remove this layer of mucus and proteins exposing bacteria and freshening breath.
People believe mouthwashes can treat bad breath. Unfortunately, most conventional mouthwashes only temporarily mask bad breath and are relatively useless at treating bad breath.
In fact, most conventional mouthwashes can actually contribute to bad breath formation. This is because mouthwashes contain a high percentage of alcohol which tends to dry out the mouth. Bacteria responsible for creating bad breath grow much better in drier mouths. A new breed of mouthwashes, however, are very effective in treating bad breath. These mouthwashes contain chlorine dioxide which actually attacks the volatile sulfur compounds on the molecular level.
It is true that temporary bad breath comes from the foods we eat. Many foods like onions and cabbage contain high amounts of sulfur compounds. When these foods are digested the sulfur compounds are absorbed into the blood stream and carried to the lungs. Here the sulfur compounds are exhaled as we breathe causing our breath to smell.
Chronic bad breath, however, is not caused by the foods we eat. Instead, chronic bad breath results when bacteria in the mouth break down left over food particles creating odorous sulfur particles. The primary goal in this case is not a change in diet but a reduction in the number of odor causing bacteria in the mouth. This can be done with proper brushing, flossing, and cleaning of the tongue with a tongue cleaner (tongue scraper).