Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Truth About Halitosis, More Commonly Known As Bad Breath

The Truth About Halitosis, More Commonly Known As Bad Breath
 by: Dr. Harold Katz
Halitosis, also more commonly known as bad breath, is caused by anaerobic producing bacteria which normally live WITHIN the surface of the tongue and in the throat. These bacteria are supposed to be there because they assist with digestion by breaking down proteins found in specific foods, mucous or phlegm, blood, and in diseased or "broken-down" oral tissue. Under certain conditions, these bacteria start to break down proteins at a very high rate. Proteins are made up of amino acids, two of which (Cysteine and Methionine) are dense with sulfur.
When the "beneficial" bacteria come into contact with these amino acids, the halitosis and "lousy-tasting" sulfur compounds are released from the back of the tongue and throat. These halitosis compounds are often scientifically referred to as Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSC's), where volatile means vaporous and effervescent.
Because my original degree is in Bacteriology, let me explain a very important fact about these "bugs". First of all they are not infectious. Everyone in the world has the same group of bacteria in their mouth. You cannot "catch" halitosis from someone, even through kissing. Since they are part of our normal oral flora, you cannot permanently remove them from your mouth either, not by tongue scraping, not with antibiotics, and not by using rinses which claim to "lift the bacteria off your tongue". The only scientifically proven and clinically effective method of halting halitosis is by attacking the bacteria's ability to produce VSC's, and by converting the VSC's into non-odorous and non-tasting organic salts.
Speaking about bacteria, there is one other fact that you must understand about them. They are classified as "anaerobic" which literally means "without oxygen". They thrive in an environment where oxygen is NOT present. That is why they do not live on the surface of your tongue. Instead, they live in between the papillae (fibers) that make up your tongue.
These sulfur compounds are actually by-products of anaerobic bacteria. Everyone needs these bacteria because they assist the digestion process. Unfortunately as of yet for some undetermined reason, these particular bacteria are found in higher numbers in those plagued by halitosis. There are various theories that attribute the cause of halitosis to hormonal changes, a history of taking medications (usually antibiotics or sulfa drugs because they create an imbalance of oral bacteria), or even due to genetics (halitosis disorders appear to run in some families). It is known however, that halitosis seems to be evenly split between men and women.
There are certain conditions that exasperate a halitosis problem such as dry mouth, post nasal drip, the sinuses, and eating high protein foods.
Dry Mouth and Halitosis
Although some cases of dry mouth are naturally occurring, most cases are caused by one of the following factors: prescription medications (usually prescribed for high blood pressure or depression), antihistamines, and adult beverages that contain alcohol.
When your mouth is dryer you have less saliva. Saliva naturally contains oxygen, which keeps your mouth healthy and fresh. The bacteria that cause halitosis are anaerobic, which again simply means that they will thrive and make more sulfur in the presence of little or no oxygen. Thus if you have less saliva, you have less oxygen, thereby creating an anaerobic environment, perfect for the bacteria to produce halitosis and sour/bitter tasting compounds.
Post Nasal Drip and Halitosis
Post nasal drip is a condition where mucous drains and coats the back of the tongue and throat. These locations of the oral environment are exactly where bacteria live. We have learned that proteins contain amino acids, which in turn contain halitosis producing sulfur compounds. Since mucous is made up of interlinked strands of protein, with the condition of post nasal drip, the bacteria has a field day breaking down the proteins into halitosis and sour tasting sulfur type compounds. Strong antihistamines will not provide any help because of their drying effect.
The Sinuses and Halitosis
After personally treating nearly 9,000 people worldwide, I have yet to see a patient get rid of halitosis following sinus surgery. First of all, these anaerobic bacteria cannot live in the sinuses. When someone has a sinus infection, one of the common symptoms are intense sinus headaches caused by the pressure from the infection in the sinus. If you don't have these powerful headaches, you probably don't have a sinus problem. The fact is that once someone has an elevated amount of these anaerobic bacteria, they will create a halitosis problem from any protein source, including mucous, phlegm, etc. which drain down the back of your throat into the area where these bacteria live.
High Protein Foods and Halitosis
Those halitosis causing bacteria love proteins, and certain foods are packed with them such as dairy foods, fish, and even coffee.
Milk and cheese and most other dairy products are high in protein. A special note if you are lactose intolerant...I recommend you not eat or drink these products! Since your system cannot digest them properly, they are available to the bacteria for an extended period of time. A research article from the Los Angeles Times (November 1996) on lactose intolerance revealed that nearly 67% of all Americans can be classified as "lactose intolerant". This is due to the fact that in a diverse population such as we have here, there is a predilection for Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans to be lactose intolerant.
Fish is high in protein as well. As many people tend to eat a high fish diet, logically, they make a halitosis problem worse.
Coffee, with or even without caffeine, contains high levels of acids which cause the bacteria that creates halitosis to reproduce more rapidly and create a bitter taste for many people. Virtually any acidic type of food will do this.
In the search for products that help in solving halitosis, there is one particular ingredient I highly recommend, Oxyd-VIII. It is an active ingredient comprised of stabilized chlorine dioxide that prevents the anaerobic bacteria from creating the sulfide and Mercaptan compounds of halitosis. Oxyd-VIII does this by "adding oxygen" to the oral environment. The end result is the formation of a "sulfate" which has no odor or taste (as opposed to sulfur which has an odor and bitter/sour taste). Most of the patients I treat start out with a starter kit that contains this active oxygen producing ingredient and work their way up from there.