Banishing Bad Breath

By: Sharon Bell
In Genesis, we are told that God gave man the breath of life. If so, perhaps Satan is responsible for what happened afterwards. For man soon became conscious of his breath and things have never been the same ever since.

Thanks to the endless array of mouthwash and toothpaste commercials, bad breath has attracted a lot of attention and continues to plague man even in modern times. Fresh breath has become almost an obsession and manufacturers of breath fresheners who make more than $363 million a year realize this. Everyone wants to be kissable and approachable at close range. The ways of achieving this goal, however, are not always reliable.

First, bad breath is not disease. It's a symptom with many possible causes. It may not be as serious as cancer but those whose social life has been affected know how embarrasing the problem can be.

Aside from having limited contacts, people with bad breath or halitosis (the less offensive term) feel they are contributing more to pollution than the jeeps and buses that ply the streets of Metro Manila. If only a condom could solve the problem! Alas, wearing one over the head would only make the user look ridiculous.

Bad breath is not always bad though. In fact, most people have it after a good night's sleep. The odor is caused by retained food particles in the mouth which come in contact with bacteria.

In case you didn't know, the mouth is dirtier than the genitals, carrying all sorts of disease-causing bacteria. Of the more than 300 bacteria which inhabit the area, four have been identified as the main causes of bad breath, namely, Veillonella alcalescens, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Bacteroides melaninogenicus, and Klebsiella pneumonias.

These bacteria work best when the flow of saliva which cleanses the mouth stops. This normally happens when one is asleep. Certain drugs and smoking also lead to a dry mouth, enabling dead cells to accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. These will later result in bad breath.

"Most people have a disagreeable taste and breath odor upon awakening. This is probably due to bacteria acting on food particles in the mouth during sleep. When a person is awake, bacteria and food particles are regularly dislodged by means of chewing, swallowing, and talking - as well as by random and purposeful tongue movements. During sleep these natural defenses are quiescent. But proper brushing or flossing of the teeth or dental irrigation before retiring, does much to lessen the likelihood of a 'brown' morning taste by removing the debris on which bacteria tend to multiply," said the editors of Consumers Union's "The Medicine Show." (Next: Other causes of bad breath.)

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