Bad Breath / Halitosis Support Forum
Forum designated to us who are suffering from chronic bad breath.
Halitosis, or most commonly bad breath are terms used to describe noticeably unpleasant odors exhaled in breathing – whether the smell is from an oral source due to bacteria or otherwise. Halitosis has a significant impact – personally and socially – on those who suffer from it or believe they do (halitophobia), and is estimated to be the third most frequent reason for seeking dental aid, following tooth decay and periodontal disease.
In most cases (85–90%), bad breath originates in the mouth itself. The intensity of bad breath differs during the day, due to eating certain foods (such as garlic, onions, meat, fish, and cheese), obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Because the mouth is exposed to less oxygen and is inactive during the night, the odor is usually worse upon awakening ("morning breath"). Bad breath may be transient, often disappearing following eating, brushing one's teeth, flossing, or rinsing with specialized mouthwash.
Bad breath may also be persistent (chronic bad breath), which is a more serious condition, affecting some 25% of the population in varying degrees. It can negatively affect the individual's personal, social, and business relationships, leading to poor self-esteem and increased stress.
There are over 600 types of bacteria found in the average mouth, possibly more if counted. Several dozen of these can produce high levels of foul odors when incubated in the laboratory. The odors are produced mainly due to the anaerobic breakdown of proteins into individual amino acids, followed by the further breakdown of certain amino acids to produce detectable foul gases. For example, the breakdown of cysteine and methionine produce hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan respectively. Volatile sulfur compounds have been shown to be statistically associated with oral malodor levels, and usually decrease following successful treatment.
Other parts of the mouth may also contribute to the overall odor, but are not as common as the back of the tongue. These locations are, in descending prevalence order: inter-dental and sub-gingival niches, faulty dental work, food-impaction areas in-between the teeth, abscesses and unclean dentures.
The most common location for mouth-related halitosis is the tongue. Tongue bacteria produce malodorous compounds and fatty acids, and account for 80 to 90 percent of all cases of mouth-related bad breath. Large quantities of naturally-occurring bacteria are often found on the posterior dorsum of the tongue, where they are relatively undisturbed by normal activity. This part of the tongue is relatively dry and poorly cleansed, and bacterial populations can thrive on remnants of food deposits, dead epithelial cells and postnasal drip. The convoluted microbial structure of the tongue dorsum provides an ideal habitat for anaerobic bacteria, which flourish under a continually-forming tongue coating of food debris, dead cells, postnasal drip and overlying bacteria, living and dead. When left on the tongue, the anaerobic respiration of such bacteria can yield either the putrescent smell of indole, skatole, polyamines, or the "rotten egg" smell of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) such as hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, Allyl methyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide.
Cleaning the tongue
The most widely-known reason to clean the tongue is for the control of bad breath. Methods used against bad breath, such as mints, mouth sprays, mouthwash or gum, may only temporarily mask the odors created by the bacteria on the tongue, but can not cure bad breath because they do not remove the source of the bad breath. In order to prevent the production of the sulfur-containing compounds mentioned above, the bacteria on the tongue must be removed; as must the decaying food debris present on the rear areas of the tongue. Most people who clean their tongue use a tongue cleaner (tongue scraper), or a toothbrush. Ergonomic, specially designed tongue cleaners are a lot more effective (collecting and removing the bacterial coating) than toothbrushes (which merely spread the bacterial accumulations on the tongue and in the mouth).
There is some controversy over the role of periodontal diseases in causing bad breath. Whereas bacteria growing below the gumline (subgingival dental plaque) have a foul smell upon removal, several studies reported no statistical correlation between malodor and periodontal parameters.
The second major source of bad breath is the nose. In this instance, the air exiting the nostrils has a pungent odor which differs from the oral odor. Nasal odor may be due to sinus infections or foreign bodies.
Putrefaction from the tonsils is generally considered a minor cause of bad breath, contributing to some 3-5% of cases. Approximately 7% of the population suffer from small bits of calcified matter in tonsillar crypts called tonsilloliths that smell extremely foul when released and can cause bad breath.
The stomach is considered by most researchers as a very uncommon source of bad breath (except in belching). The esophagus is a closed and collapsed tube, and continuous flow (as opposed to a simple burp) of gas or putrid substances from the stomach indicates a health problem - such as reflux serious enough to be bringing up stomach contents or a fistula between the stomach and the esophagus - which will demonstrate more serious manifestations than just foul odor.
In the case of allyl methyl sulfide, odor does come from the stomach since it does not get metabolized there.
The Cardia, which is the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, may not close properly due to a Hiatal Hernia or GERD allowing acid to enter the esophagus and gases escape to the mouth. 
There are a few systemic (non-oral) medical conditions which may cause foul breath odor, but these are extremely infrequent in the general population. Such conditions are:
Fetor hepaticus: an example of a rare type of bad breath caused by chronic liver failure.
Lower respiratory tract infections (bronchial and lung infections).
Renal infections and renal failure.
Trimethylaminuria ("fish odor syndrome").
Individuals afflicted by the above conditions often show additional, more diagnostically conclusive symptoms than bad breath. People troubled by bad breath should not conclude that they suffer from these conditions or disease.
Self diagnosis and home diagnosis
Scientists have long thought that smelling one's own breath odor is often difficult due to acclimatization, although many people with bad breath are able to detect it in others. Research has suggested that self-evaluation of halitosis isn't easy because of preconceived notions of how bad we think it should be. Some people assume that they have bad breath because of bad taste (metallic, sour, fecal, etc), however bad taste is considered a poor indicator.
For these reasons, the simplest and most effective way to know whether one has bad breath is to ask a trusted adult family member or very close friend ("confidant"). If the confidant confirms that there is a breath problem, he or she can help determine whether it is coming from the mouth or the nose, and whether a particular treatment is effective or not.
One popular home method to determine the presence of bad breath is to lick the back of the wrist, let the saliva dry for a minute or two, and smell the result. This test results in overestimation, as concluded from research, and should be avoided. A better way would be to lightly scrape the posterior back of the tongue with a plastic disposable spoon and to smell the drying residue. A spouse, family member, or close friend may be willing to smell one's breath and provide honest feedback. Home tests are now available which use a chemical reaction to test for the presence of polyamines and sulfur compounds on tongue swabs, but there are few studies showing how well they actually detect the odor. Furthermore, since breath odor changes in intensity throughout the day depending on many factors, multiple testing may be necessary.
If bad breath is persistent, and all other medical and dental factors have been ruled out, specialised testing and treatment is required. Hundreds of dental offices and commercial breath clinics now claim to diagnose and treat bad breath. They often use some of several laboratorial methods for diagnosis of bad breath:
Halimeter: a portable sulfide monitor used to test for levels of sulfur emissions (specifically, hydrogen sulfide) in the mouth air. When used properly this device can be very effective at determining levels of certain VSC-producing bacteria. However, it has drawbacks in clinical applications. For example, other common sulfides (such as mercaptan) are not recorded as easily and can be misrepresented in test results. Certain foods such as garlic and onions produce sulfur in the breath for as long as 48 hours and can result in false readings. The Halimeter is also very sensitive to alcohol, so one should avoid drinking alcohol or using alcohol-containing mouthwashes for at least 12 hours prior to being tested. This analog machine loses sensitivity over time and requires periodic recalibration to remain accurate.
Gas chromatography: portable machines, such as the OralChroma, are currently being introduced. This technology is specifically designed to digitally measure molecular levels of the three major VSCs in a sample of mouth air (hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and dimethyl sulfide). It is accurate in measuring the sulfur components of the breath and produces visual results in graph form via computer interface.
BANA test: this test is directed to find the salivary levels of an enzyme indicating the presence of certain halitosis-related bacteria.
β-galactosidase test: salivary levels of this enzyme were found to be correlated with oral malodor.
Although such instrumentation and examinations are widely used in breath clinics, the most important measurement of bad breath (the gold standard) is the actual sniffing and scoring of the level and type of the odor carried out by trained experts ("organoleptic measurements"). The level of odor is usually assessed on a six point intensity scale.
Home care and treatment
Currently, chronic halitosis is not very well understood by most physicians and dentists, so effective treatment is not always easy to find. Six strategies may be suggested:
Gently cleaning the tongue surface twice daily is the most effective way to keep bad breath in control; that can be achieved using a tongue cleaner or tongue brush/scraper to wipe off the bacterial biofilm, debris and mucus. An inverted teaspoon may also do the job; a toothbrush should be avoided, as the bristles only spread the bacteria in the mouth, and grip the tongue, causing a gagging reflex. Scraping or otherwise damaging the tongue should be avoided, and scraping of the V-shaped row of taste buds found at the extreme back of the tongue should also be avoided. Brushing a small amount of antibacterial mouth rinse or tongue gel onto the tongue surface will further inhibit bacterial action.
Eating a healthy breakfast with rough foods helps clean the very back of the tongue.
Chewing gum: Since dry mouth can increase bacterial buildup and cause or worsen bad breath, chewing sugarless gum can help with the production of saliva, and thereby help to reduce bad breath. Chewing may help particularly when the mouth is dry, or when one cannot perform oral hygiene procedures after meals (especially those meals rich in protein). This aids in provision of saliva, which washes away oral bacteria, has antibacterial properties and promotes mechanical activity which helps cleanse the mouth. Some chewing gums contain special anti-odor ingredients. Chewing on fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, mastic gum or fresh parsley are common folk remedies.
Gargling right before bedtime with an effective mouthwash (see below). Several types of commercial mouthwashes have been shown to reduce malodor for hours in peer-reviewed scientific studies. Mouthwashes may contain active ingredients which are inactivated by the soap present in most toothpastes. Thus it is recommended to refrain from using mouthwash directly after toothbrushing with paste (also see mouthwashes, below).
Maintaining proper oral hygiene, including daily tongue cleaning, brushing, flossing, and periodic visits to dentists and hygienists. Flossing is particularly important in removing rotting food debris and bacterial plaque from between the teeth, especially at the gumline. Dentures should be properly cleaned and soaked overnight in antibacterial solution (unless otherwise advised by your dentist).
Maintain water levels in the body by drinking several glasses of water a day.
Mouthwashes often contain antibacterial agents including cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorhexidine, zinc gluconate, essential oils, and chlorine dioxide. Zinc and chlorhexidine provide strong synergistic effect. They may also contain alcohol, which is a drying agent. Rinses in this category include Scope and Listerine.
Other solutions rely on odor eliminators like oxidizers to eliminate existing bad breath on a short-term basis. Rinses in this category include SmartMouth, Therabreath, Closys and others.
A relatively new approach for home-care of bad breath is by oil-containing mouthwashes. The use of essential oils has been studied, was found effective and is being used in several commercial mouthwashes, as well as the use of two-phase (oil:water) mouthwashes, which have been found to be effective in reducing oral malodor.
Ancient traditional remedies
According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, chewing areca nut and betel leaf is an excellent remedy against bad breath. In South Asia it was a custom to chew areca or betel nut and betel leaf among lovers because of the breath-freshening and stimulant drug properties of the mixture. Both the nut and the leaf are mild stimulants and can be addictive with repeated use. The betel nut will also cause tooth decay and dye one's teeth bright red when chewed.
Halitophobia (delusion halitosis)
Some one quarter of the patients seeking professional advice on bad breath suffer from a highly exaggerated concern of having bad breath, known as halitophobia, delusional halitosis, or as a manifestation of Olfactory Reference Syndrome. These patients are sure that they have bad breath, although many have not asked anyone for an objective opinion. Halitophobia may severely affect the lives of some 0.5-1.0% of the adult population. Only a few psychologists and health professionals have tried to come to terms with this debilitating and difficult-to-treat emotional problem.
In 1996, The International Society for Breath Odor Research (ISBOR) was formed to promote multidisciplinary research on all aspects of breath odors. The eighth international conference on breath odor took place in 2009 in Dortmund, Germany.
Tongue cleaner (scraper)
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Gastroesophageal RefluxSteven M Schwarz. 2009 May 13
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^ [Naveen Pattnaik, The Tree of Life]
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A tonsillolith, also known as a tonsil stone, is a piece (or more commonly, a cluster) of calcareous matter which forms in the rear of the mouth, in the crevasses (called tonsillar crypts) of the palatine tonsils (which are what most people commonly refer to as simply tonsils).
Protruding tonsilloliths may have the feel of a foreign object, lodged in the back of the tonsil crypt. They may be an especially uncomfortable nuisance, but are often not harmful. They are one possible cause of halitosis ("bad (via tonsils) breath").
A tonsillolith protrudes from the tonsil
Large tonsillolith half exposed on tonsilTonsilloliths occur more frequently in adults than in children. Many small tonsil stones do not cause any noticeable symptoms. Even when they are large, some tonsil stones are only discovered accidentally on X-rays or CT scans.
Other symptoms include a metallic taste, throat closing or tightening, coughing fits, and choking.
Larger tonsilloliths may have multiple symptoms, including recurrent halitosis, which frequently accompanies a tonsil infection, sore throat, white debris, a bad taste in the back of the throat, difficulty swallowing, otalgia, and tonsil swelling. A medical study conducted in 2007 found an association between tonsilloliths and bad breath. Among those with bad breath, 75% of the subjects had tonsilloliths while only 6% of subjects with normal halitometry values (normal breath) had tonsilloliths. A foreign body sensation may also exist in the back of throat. The condition may also be an asymptomatic condition, with detection upon palpating a hard intratonsillar or submucosal mass.
Treatment, if required, is usually removal of concretions by curettage; larger lesions may require local excision although these treatments may not help the bad breath issues that are often associated with this condition. Gargling with mouth wash and frequent teeth brushing will sometimes help stop the formation of tonsil stones. It is recommended to check your tonsils at least once a week in order to prevent giant tonsil stones from forming.
A colloquial term for tonsilloliths is "throat oats" or "oats of the throat" or "oaty throaty".
Tonsilloliths or tonsil stones are calcifications that form in the crypts of the palatal tonsils. They are also known to form in the throat and on the roof of the mouth. Tonsils are filled with crevices where bacteria and other materials, including dead cells and mucus, can become trapped. When this occurs, the debris can become concentrated in white formations that occur in the pockets. Tonsilloliths are formed when this trapped debris combines and hardens, or calcifies. This tends to occur most often in people who suffer from chronic inflammation in their tonsils or repeated bouts of tonsillitis. These calculi are composed of calcium salts such as hydroxyapatite or calcium carbonate apatite, oxalates and other magnesium salts or containing ammonium radicals, macroscopically appear white or yellowish in color, and are usually of small size - though there have been occasional reports of large tonsilloliths or calculi in peritonsillar locations. While many people have small tonsilloliths that develop in their tonsils, it is quite rare to have such a large and solidified tonsil stone.
Much rarer than the typical tonsil stones are giant tonsilloliths. Giant tonsilloliths may often be mistaken for other oral maladies, including peritonsillar abscess, and tumours of the tonsil.
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