Have you ever had a brutally honest 4 year old let you know EXACTLY how your breath smells!? I have, so I finally looked carefully into what was going on in there. Here's what I found...
For years, the cause of chronic bad breath has been misdiagnosed. Often it is attributed to what you've eaten the night before, or it has been thought to be just part of some people's particular mouth biology.
In the past, treatment has consisted of masking the odor with mouthwashes or mints, flooding the mouth with alcohol-based rinses, or the latest craze, popping pills that claim to cure the problem in the stomach. None of these treatments work because most bad breath, comes from the bacteria on the back of the tongue and upper throat that produce sulfurous gases (the odor)!
The way to stop bad breath is to stop the growth of those microorganisms.
The source of bad breath does not originate in the digestive system (unless you have one of a few rare medical conditions), and the food you eat has no direct effect on your breath.
Certain foods, however, contribute to the production of sulfurous gases in the back of your mouth. Most popular would be the acids in coffee and proteins in dairy products that exacerbate the problem. Mints and mouthwashes intended to mask or prevent bad breath actually worsen the condition because of the sugars and alcohol in these products; they dry out the mouth which is the exact environment these microorganisms flourish in. Many common medications for conditions from high blood pressure to depression have the same drying effect, resulting in the formation of odorous gases. Mucous from post-nasal drip contains dense proteins that are full of sulfur and will have a worsening effect on the gases.
The problem is that the surface of your tongue is much like a shag carpet. Those tiny bumps that you see are actually long, finger-like projections of your taste buds. The bacteria hide deep below the surface of your tongue, down in-between those projections. Unless you physically remove that creamy film on your tongue every morning, your breath will smell like the bacteria that live there!
Remember: You’re often the last to know about bad breath. Because bad breath originates in the mouth it is virtually undetectable by your own sense of smell. You may notice a bitter, sour taste in your mouth or a whitish coating on the back of your tongue, but you generally find out there’s a problem when family members or co-workers brings it to your attention.
***Some people with serious gum disease have a particular kind of bad breath that we can smell from a yard away in conversations. If you follow a healthy, home care routine and still, your spouse tells you that by noon your breath is as bad as ever, then you should head over to see us and make an appoint to you tackle an even more important problem - Periodontal Disease.
WHAT'S THE BEST CURE?
The best remedy for bad breath is simple (but extremely vigorous) removal of the yellowish plaque that builds up on the surface of your tongue during sleep. (That yellowish coating is made up of millions of bacteria happily multiplying, and "Pooping!” Yes, sorry to offend, but they are eating and pooping, your tongue is their "crash pad". Your breath smells like someone's crash pad. ) You can do that with "tongue scrapers" that they sell at the drug store, or just take an extra 2 minutes every morning to really concentrate on brushing your tongue after you brush your teeth.
Personally, I like to scrub like crazy with my toothbrush for a few seconds all over the top surface of my tongue (no toothpaste) and then take the brush out and rinse it. Then I go back in and scrub some more, then rinse. I repeat this over and over, until the brush bristles do not come out with any of that yellowish film on them. You can definitely see the yellowish/brown plaque coming off on the bristles when you start. But at the end, your bristles should come out clean.
Then it's a good idea to scrub the roof of your mouth thoroughly too. (Especially if you are a mouth-breather, or a snorer.)
If you are a glutton for punishment (like I am), your last step should be a few rinses and brushing with some of that brown formula Listerine. I love that stuff, but it's a real wake-up call! Whoa! Anything that tastes that shocking HAS to be killing things!
That routine, every morning, should take care of the problem for 95% of people.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
The surface of the tongue is the main breeding ground for bacteria and plaque that later attack teeth and gums. The bacteria in the mouth have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. Clinical studies have linked periodontal disease and poor oral health to coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
(See our other WebPages on topics like the heart disease/ gum disease connection.)
AND REMEMBER...... BAD BREATH IS HARDLY BETTER THAN ANY BREATH AT ALL!! ;)