OK, it's not life or death. But bad breath is annoying, icky, can affect daily activities and social interactions, and has been the subject of a perhaps surprising amount of research. And chances are, you've encountered patients looking for treatment. Scientific American just published an article reviewing recent and current studies, and discussing the role of bacteria in creating and controlling oral malodor.
I'll let you read the article for details, but here are a a few of my take-aways and observations......
- It's not the garlic.
- Historically, most attempts at eliminating bad breath have been based on masking odors, and more recently on eliminating known odor-causing bacteria. Now the focus is on nurturing the good bacteria that balance out oral microflora and prevent oral malodor.
- I'm a big fan of Activia. Will that work?
- Backstory: A UCLA researcher working on a peptide-containing rinse targeted to kill S. mutans DOES NOT use mouthwash or even a tongue scraper.
- The article's author has a flair for the dramatic. How often do you read words like putrid, stinky, rancid, and pungent in Scientific American.
- Some of the compounds produced by oral bacteria have specific accompanying odors. Who knew that hydrogen sulfide conjures up rotten eggs, and methyl mercaptan smells like rotten cabbage?
- Be sure to scroll down so you don't miss the reader comments. They are numerous, articulate, and range from the scholarly to the gross.