Why breath can smell like death…

If people generally become nauseous in your company, you may be an oral offender

We all know an oral offender.  I’m not talking about the office bigot with the liberal use of foul language.  I’m talking about the person that has a three metre radius of fetid fog emanating from their face hole.

Everyone gets morning breath.  I often cringe at Hollywood sex scenes that involve an impromptu morning rendezvous   It’s one thing to exchange genital fluids at that time in the AM but sharing their mouth inhabitants’ excrement makes me feel a bit queasy. Who said romance was dead. But I’m not talking about run of the mill morning breath, I’m talking about having-to-hold-your-breath-so-you-don’t-gag-whilst-they-talk-to-you breath.

So why do some people get bad breath and what can we all do to avoid it?  I think understanding the tiny inhabitants of our mouths and their habits might help so here goes…

What was once called plaque is now termed as a biofilm.  This is because it is far more highly organised than they once thought.  Once upon a time they discovered two different groups of bacteria – ones that lived above the gums and ones that lived below it.  The ones that lived above the gums liked lots of oxygen and the ones that lived below didn’t like oxygen.  They quickly realised that the ones that liked O2 were the Notting Hill, high society-type bacteria and the ones that loathed Owere quite a volatile bunch that caused a lot of damage and did a lot of murders.  The two didn’t have a lot to do with each other and it was generally thought that if you were unlucky enough to have the thuggish lot living in your oral cavity then you had evict them pretty damn quick. 

Now, however, they have discovered that the two sides are actually complexly intertwined like a well scripted Guy Ritchie movie.  Instead of being like an episode of Downton Abbey where the upstairs never mingles with the downstairs, it’s more like the drug industry where the dirty lowlifes are supplying the socialites their fix of narcotics – they never consort but are very much dependant on one another.

Most of the bad breath smell is created by bacteria turd, but other more disturbing compounds can also be found.  Candaverine and putrescine are what makes dead bodies smell.  Skatole is the smell of human bum waste.  Isovaleric Acid is the smell of sweaty feet.  All these things can also be found in the mouth.  I often have patients say to me that they didn’t have time to brush their teeth before they left the house.  Does a lady ever go for a smear test and forget to wash her chuff? Does a bloke, hoping to cop off on a night out, forget to give his knob a good scouring? I bloody hope not.

If you have an inquisitive mind and a strong stomach, you can look at a video of the inhabitants of a healthy mouth and the boisterous, defacating party goers of an unhealthy mouth.  If that doesn’t make you scrub and floss your toothy pegs, I shall also be doing a future post on good toothbrushing techniques.

In the meantime, here are a few tips:

  • Brushing alone only cleans 60% of the total tooth surface area so that means 40% makes up the spaces in between the teeth.  Most bad breath can be eliminated by flossing or using an interdental cleaning aid of some kind.  If you need assistance on choosing the right in betweeny-cleany gadget then visit your dental hygienist.  (From May 1st, you should be able to see a hygienist without having the see a dentist first.)
  • Your tongue, especially near the back, can collect and harbour a lot of bacteria so tongue brushing is very important.  You only need to use your toothbrush at the end of your toothbrushing routine and if you brush before breakfast, it won’t matter if you gag a bit.  If you use an electric toothbrush, it might be worth having a manual toothbrush as well to brush your tongue with.
  • The average time spent brushing teeth is about 30 seconds.  To do a thorough brush, it really needs to be about two minutes.  First of all, time yourself to see how long you take and do it honestly.  Then do it for two minutes and see how much more you clean.
  • Be methodical.  Most of us are zoned out when we’re brushing, thinking about the next task or the day’s events so when you put that toothbrush down, you won’t be able to remember whether you brushed the back teeth or the left side as equally as the right.  Feel all the surfaces of the teeth with your tongue.  You have the insides of the top set and the insides of the bottom set, the outsides of the top set and the outsides of the bottom set, the biting surfaces of the top set and the biting surfaces of the bottom set.  Think about where you’re brushing and use a mirror so you can put the toothbrush down when you’ve finished and know that you have cleaned all the surfaces thoroughly.
  • If you notice bleeding, don’t worry.  It’s likely that you’ve just started reaching inflamed bits that you weren’t reaching before.  If your gums persistently bleed, then visit a hygienist so they can tell you why.

Gum disease is now being linked with heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and even some cancers so having a healthy mouth really will increase your life expectancy. Help your fellow (wo)man by sharing this blog…unless the oral offender you know is a complete cock in which case, just keep giving them a wide birth as they’ll hopefully die a lot sooner than you anyway.

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