_How can a person can test the quality of their own breath?
There are ways you can objectively smell your own breath. However, you have to take a slightly indirect route.
Try this technique. Lick your wrist, wait about five seconds while the saliva dries somewhat, and then smell it. What do you think?
That's the way you smell. Or, more precisely, that's the way the end of your tongue smells (your tongue's "anterior" portion). How was it? Did you pass this first check?
Now try this second experiment. It will check the odor associated with the back portion of your tongue (your tongue's "posterior" aspect).
Take a spoon, turn it upside down, and use it to scrape the very back portion of your tongue. (Don't be surprised if you find you have an active gag reflex.) Take a look at the material that has been scrapped off, usually it's a thick whitish material. Now, take a whiff of it. Not so bad? Pretty nasty? This smell, as opposed to the sampling from the anterior portion of your tongue, is probably the way your breath smells to others.
Bad Breath Self-test
Many people have questions regarding their breath. Many are unable to tell if they have bad breath. Often times, you will hear a friend talk about someone else's horrible breath, yet never tell the other person. A simple technique one can perform on their own, is to take a bad breath self-test which involves a few simple steps:
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What are the causes of bad breath?
More than 90 million people suffer from chronic halitosis or bad breath. In most cases it originates from the gums and tongue. The odor is caused by bacteria from the decay of food particles, other debris in your mouth, and poor oral hygiene. The decay and debris produce a sulfur compound that causes the unpleasant odor.
Bad breath is primarily caused by poor oral hygiene, but can also can be caused by retained food particles or gum disease. Proper brushing including brushing the tongue, cheeks, and the roof of the mouth will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped between teeth. Mouth rinses are effective in temporary relief of bad breath. Consult your dentist and/or physician if the condition persists.
Does bad breath come from other sources than the mouth?
Bad breath also may occur in people who have a medical infection, gum disease, diabetes, kidney failure, or a liver malfunction. Xerostomia (dry mouth) and tobacco also contribute to this problem. Cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy may experience dry mouth. Even stress, dieting, snoring, age and hormonal changes can have an effect on your breath. An odor that comes from the back of your tongue may indicate post-nasal drip. This is where the mucus secretion, which comes from the nose and moves down your throat, gets stuck on the tongue and causes an odor. Bad breath originating in the stomach, however, is considered to be extremely rare.
Why is saliva so important in the fight against bad breath?
Saliva is the key ingredient in your mouth that helps keep the odor under control because it helps wash away food particles and bacteria, the primary cause of bad breath. When you sleep, however, salivary glands slow down the production of saliva allowing the bacteria to grow inside the mouth. To alleviate "morning mouth," brush your teeth and eat a morning meal. Morning mouth also is associated with hunger or fasting. Those who skip breakfast, beware because the odor may reappear even if you've brushed your teeth.
Do certain foods cause bad breath?
Very spicy foods, such as onions and garlic, and coffee may be detected on a person's breath for up to 72 hours after digestion. Onions, for example, are absorbed by the stomach and the odor is then excreted through the lungs. Studies even have shown that garlic rubbed on the soles of the feet can show up on the breath.
How do I control bad breath?
It is important to practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day. To alleviate the odor, clean your tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper, a plastic tool that scrapes away bacteria that builds on the tongue. Chewing sugar-free gum also may help control the odor. If you have dentures or a removable appliance, such as a retainer or mouthguard, clean the appliance thoroughly before placing it back in your mouth. Before you use mouth rinses, deodorizing sprays or tablets, talk with your dentist because these products only mask the odor temporarily, and some products work better than others.
What is my dentist's role?
Visit your dentist regularly because checkups will help detect any physical problems. Checkups also help get rid of the plaque and bacteria that build up on your teeth. If you think that you suffer from bad breath, your dentist can help determine its source. He or she may ask you to schedule a separate appointment to find the source of the odor. Or, if your dentist believes that the problem is caused from a systemic source (internal), such as an infection, he or she may refer you to your family physician or a specialist to help remedy the cause of the problem.
Courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry.
The Academy of General Dentistry is a non-profit organization of more than 37,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patient's oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at www.agd.org/consumer .Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08
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