Halitosis, or bad breath, has a number of possible causes. The origin of unpleasant odors is usually the mouth, and careful attention to oral hygiene is the usual solution. Sometimes, however, even the most fastidious oral care will not eradicate an undesirable odor. It must be remembered that the breath only passes through the mouth, but originates in the lungs. The lungs may excrete any number of substances from the blood. In addition to carbon dioxide, which is odorless, such other substances as alcohol, acetone (from the metabolism of fats,) and many others in trace amounts may contribute to the odor of the gasses leaving the lungs. Importantly, there are some very foul smelling substances which may be carried in very small quantities from the bowel. These include substances occurring in ingested food, and some which are produced by bacterial action on undigested material reaching the colon.
To combat bad breath, you should first insure that oral hygiene is excellent. Visit the dentist regularly for teeth cleaning, and brush teeth at least twice daily. The back of the tongue is now known to frequently harbor a population of odor-causing bacteria, and should be scraped/brushed thoroughly. You must also floss and/or use a Water Pik daily to remove food particles from between teeth and to prevent buildup of tartar at the gum line. An oral rinse or "mouthwash" is ok to use, but only to provide extra freshness, not to mask odors which should have been removed by these other measures. A mouthwash cannot effectively cleanse the mouth of odors, and any coverup effect is very temporary. The chemicals in some oral rinses are quite irritating and can actually cause minor damage to tissues with overuse.
If you wear dentures, be aware that they are frequently the source of foul odor. Frequent and thorough cleaning of dentures is necessary to prevent the accumulation of odor causing substances.
Odors which originate in the bowel can only be removed by means of dietary changes or additives. One of the best ways to eliminate bowel odor, and therefore some breath odor, is to add more chlorophyll to the diet. This is probably most practically done by means of the more frequent ingestion of green leafy vegetables. The greener the vegetable, the more chlorophyll is contained therein, and the more potent will be the odor-removing effect. Therefore, spinach is more helpful than iceberg lettuce, which is practically useless. Darker leaf lettuces are also effective. Kale and collard greens and turnip greens will all be more effective than the lettuces. Parsley and cilantro (coriander greens or oriental parsley) are also very good. You can also obtain chlorophyll tablets, which can be convenient when other sources of chlorophyll are not readily available.
You can be certain that if you are not brushing (cleaning teeth and tongue) and flossing twice daily and taking sufficient chlorophyll in your diet, your breath is often offensive! This means you! Clean up your act!
Copyright Wm. P. Alford, M.D., 1993,1996.
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