Americans are obsessed about how we smell and advertisers have perfected ways to reinforce our fears. They sell products for virtually every indentation and orifice on the body. The mouthwash business is huge because we seem especially concerned about bad breath. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on gargles, rinses, and breath mints and much of that money is wasted.
Although it is true that virtually everyone will wake up with a stale taste in the mouth, this is natural. It’s the result of bacteria building up overnight due to oral inactivity. This generally clears up with brushing your teeth, sipping your morning juice or talking.
For most people, dietary discretion and good dental hygiene forestalls any problem with bad breath. But there are those whose troubles persist. One reader informed us: “My daughter had halitosis but hers smelled almost like a chemical. Some days it was slight and other days it would knock out a horse. I knew it wasn’t ordinary bad breath so I took her to an allergist, who told us her large tonsils were catching food in their folds. First he ruled out diabetes, then went ahead and removed her tonsils. She hasn’t had a problem since.”
Then there was Stan. He told us that after years of suffering with heartburn and ulcers he was treated for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacterial infection is believed ot be responsible for many persistent ulcers. After a successful antibiotic program, Stan was astonished to find that his long-standing bad breath had disappeared. His dog used to retreat when Stan got close and his girlfriend would complain bitterly. Stan was delighted about an unexpected bonus in curing his ulcers–his dog and his girlfriend no longer backed off.
There is a blood test for Helicobacter pylori to see if this infection is lurking in the digestive tract. If bad breath is not caused by this germ, specialists to consult include a dentist, a periodontist or an ear, nose and throat specialist. A thorough diagnostic workup is essential to rule out diabetes, liver disease or kidney failure. Infection could also be the culprit. Gum disease, tonsillitis, sinus infection or a lung problem may all contribute. The tonsils may also trap food that could decay, causing an unpleasant odor. It will take persistence and determination to find the cause so true bad breath can be treated effectively.