What is That Smell?
Nothing is more embarrassing than having bad breath and not knowing it. In fact, most of us would rather trip and fall in front of a crowd of people or spill red wine on someone’s white shirt than have smelly breath. But why would anybody have bad breath if they brush, floss and use mouthwash faithfully every day? What causes that horrible, cringe-worthy, rotten egg smell to exude from someone’s mouth?
Probably because something more serious than eating a chili dog with onions is making your breath smell bad no matter how carefully you brush each tooth and swig mouthfuls of Listerine.
Everyone has experienced bouts of temporary bad breath but genuine halitosis may indicate undetected dental problems contributing to anaerobic bacterial growth, the main culprit behind halitosis. Only a trip to the dentist office can solve the mystery behind long-term halitosis–and why everybody you talk to seems to lean back slightly when you are talking to them.
So What is Oral Anaerobic Bacteria?
Anaerobic bacteria living in your mouth constantly excrete noxious, sulfurous gases as they busily consume oral protein such as food particles, dead skin, blood traces and mucus. These gases are called volatile sulfur compounds and consist mostly of:
- Cadavarine–emanates from a decaying corpse
- Skatole–the odor identifying feces
- Isovaleric acid–contained in sweaty feet perspiration
- Putrescine–the smell produced by rotting meat
And that is why bad breath smells so embarrassingly bad.
The only time anaerobic bacteria are not exuding these foul odors is when your mouth is moist, oxygenated and clean. Having a frequently dry mouth accelerates production of anaerobic bacteria, since this type of bacteria prefers environments where there is no oxygen and no moisture. Saliva also has strong, antibacterial properties that help reduce germ activity in the mouth. When allergies, sinusitis, poor oral hygiene practices or other medical conditions reduce salivary gland output, a consistently dry mouth will also promote tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath.
How Can a Dentist Eliminate Bad Breath?
When pH levels in the mouth are high, anaerobic bacteria flourish due to the absence of oxygen. Smoking, neglecting to brush and floss and oral diseases can make your mouth’s pH level go off the scale. In addition, if you have unfilled cavities, enamel pitting or tooth cracks that have not been repaired, bacteria will accumulate in these holes and crevices, reproduce rapidly and create a destructive biofilm called plaque. If plaque is not removed by a dentist, it will develop into tartar and cause gingivitis, a serious gum disease often followed by periodontitis.
Visiting your dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning is the best way to ensure your breath never embarrasses you again. Filling cavities, strengthening weakened or damaged teeth with dental crowns when necessary and having plaque removed with special dental tools will help prevent excessive growth of oral bacteria. Brushing and rinsing with a medicated mouthwash twice a day, brushing your tongue, flossing at least once a day and drinking plenty of water in between cleanings is also dentist recommended for eliminating those funky, fetid bacteria for good.