11 February 2008

Don’t let death breath kill your social life

If you’ve ever been in a crowded lift with someone whose breath could form part of a biological weapons programme, you’ll know that halitosis is bad for social interaction.

George Orwell said: “You can have an affection for a murderer or a sodomite, but you cannot have an affection for a man whose breath stinks.” Needless to say, getting a second date when you brandish death breath on the first one is unlikely.

Garlic, booze and food can create a pungent potpourri that can stun a dentist at 40 paces. Either way, your love life will suffer.

And except for that Danish student you met while backpacking through Normandy, everyone wakes up with so-called morning breath. But what can you do about it?

It’s been suggested that halitosis is an indication of poor health; that if you have constipation it’ll manifest in bad breath.

It’s also been claimed - fallaciously so, say doctors – that the odours in foods are carried in the bloodstream, where they pass into the lungs and onto the person’s breath. This has been described as scientifically impossible.

The causes of halitosis are actually fairly simple, says Cape Town aesthetic dentist Dr Ilona Visser: “Bad breath can be traced to microbes in the mouth, especially at the back of the tongue, where the surface of the tongue is extremely rough, and between your teeth”

Dead and dying bacteria release an evil-smelling sulphur compound, and together with the odour of rotting food debris can result in a bacterial bouquet that is potent and distinctive, she explains.

Bad breath can also be the result of a throat infection, as well as a sign of gum disease. This is caused by plaque, the colourless, sticky film of bacteria that builds up on your teeth daily. The bacteria produce toxins that irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums.

Gingivitis eventually damages the bone supporting the teeth, resulting in periodontitis or formation of spaces between the gums and the teeth.

Fight the foul funk
Here’s a good rule of thumb: looking in a mirror, press gently against a bit of your gum between your teeth with a fingernail. The pressure will make the gum turn from pink to white as the blood is pushed out of the tissue. When you remove your fingernail the gum should immediately turn pink again.

If it stays pale, or if a bit of blood or yellow pus appears between tooth and gum, your gums aren’t as healthy as they should be. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you should also be concerned, says Dr Visser.

She recommends that you start by gargling and rinsing your mouth out thoroughly with salty water. Combat bad breath by brushing and flossing morning and night.

If you suffer from persistent bad breath it may be the result of a medical problem not related to your mouth. Bad breath can also be the result of sinus trouble, lung infections or diabetes. If regular brushing doesn’t doesn't help you should consult your dentist.

- (William Smook, Health24)

Read more:
Get fresh on Valentine's Day
Bad breath can spell trouble


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