What's Causing Your Bad Breath?

With the holidays right around the corner, the last thing you want to worry about is bad breath. But do you know what's really causing it? Dr. Susanne Cohen, co-founder of SmartMouth, gave us a breakdown on what foods you should watch out for.

What exactly causes bad breath?

Germs plus protein equal bad breath. When those germs metabolize, they produce a foul smelling sulfur gas that smells kind of like rotten eggs."

Does everyone get bad breath?

Yes everyone experiences bad breath. Even if people don't suffer from severe halitosis, half of the adult population in the U.S. suffers from persistent bad breath.

What are the most common myths about bad breath?

Mouthwashes containing alcohol mask breath for a very short time – those mouthwashes which claim to kill almost 100 percent of germs, don't tell you that those germs also rapidly repopulate-within 30 to 60 minutes by most estimates-causing just as bad "rebound" bad breath.

What are some foods that are known to cause bad breath?

- Proteins (Meats, Dairy) Protein is one of the most common causes of bad breath. Most of the volatile sulfur compounds that cause bad breath are waste products created by anaerobic bacteria as they digest proteins. This means that as we consume food items such as meat and fish, the bacteria that live in our mouths are getting a meal too and subsequently producing the waste products that cause our bad breath.

- Sugar (Chocolate, Desserts) When you eat food or a dish containing sugar, the bacteria in the mouth increases. With in a half hour to an hour, aerobic oxygen germs settle on teeth and create a film that cuts off oxygen. Bacteria fester with no oxygen, leading to bad breath.

- Alcohol (Wine, Liquor) Alcohol is a drying agent, and dry mouth leads to the production of sulfur gases. Plus, most alcohols have sugar (see above).

When is it a more serious problem?

People with certain conditions like liver or kidney disease and diabetes tend to have bad breath as well. The build up of wastes in the blood leads to a metallic taste in the mouth that produces the odor. Conditions like acid-reflux (which may be asymptomatic in some people) causes food to regurgitate to the esophagus which mix with bacteria and other enzymes to cause bad breath.

What are some common and surprising ways to alleviate bad breath?

Chewing fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, and rosemary also helps prevent bad odors after a smelly meal. Besides having a more favorable scent, the chlorophyll in the leaves helps neutralize pungent smells. You can also drink more water to keep your breath moisturized.

What are the most recent studies/breakthroughs when it comes to bad breath?

The Australian Dental Journal concluded that there is sufficient evidence that mouthwashes with alcohol increase your risk of developing oral cancer, a disease that kills roughly 8,000 Americans every year.

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