For years we didn’t know much about bad breath, except that it is an unfortunate problem for many people, but today we understand many of the basic concepts of bad breath. We know what causes it most of the time, we’re making progress in diagnosis, and focused scientific research is revealing some possible approaches to treatment that weren’t possible in the past.
One of the first facts about halitosis to be understood was the role of anaerobic bacteria in the mouth. It is these bacteria that produce the bad odor we associate with oral malodor, and knowing this makes it clear that the best approach to treating the problem will target oral anaerobes. Basic concepts of bad breath more recently revealed include the fact that in the vast majority of cases, the odor-producing bacteria are living on the surface of the tongue, in the pits and grooves at the back of the tongue, where sinus drainage coats the tongue producing a layer of biofilm that shielding anaerobic bacteria from oxygen.
One of the curious facts about halitosis that has become very evident is that many people worry about the problem excessively and a significant number believe their breath smells bad when it really does not. We aren’t very good at judging the quality of our own breath! Further to this, those that do suffer from oral malodor are frequently unaware of it. Currently, one of the basic concepts of bad breath treatment among professionals is that one must first confirm that the condition actually exists. Several methods of measuring breath odor, both objectively and subjectively, have now been developed and are in regular use by professionals.
Though learning all the facts about halitosis has not yet revealed a panacea for dealing with the problem, we’re getting closer, and products available on the market are more effective than ever. Reducing the number of odor producing bacteria and giving them no place to multiply again are among the basic concepts of bad breath treatment today. Sufferers can consult professionals and/or choose from a wide variety of commercial products, many of which are significant improvements over what was available even five years ago. Hopefully, the next few years will bring even more useful information about this troublesome condition.
Source: Krespi, Yosef P., Mark G. Shrime, and Ashutosh Kacker. The relationship between oral malodor and volatile sulfur compound-producing bacteria. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (2006) 135, 671-676
R. Drysdale is a freelance writer with more than 25 years experience as a health care professional. She is a contributing editor to Bad Breath Facts at Bad Breath Remedies, a blog dedicated to the treatment of bad breath.