Despite common perception, bad breath is not just a topic to be taken lightly. For many, halitosis is part of daily life, whether it's suffering from it or working or living with someone that has foul breath. Many people suffer from chronic halitosis for years and on a daily basis. Here are some recent scientific studies that have been done to try to understand and improve what we know about bad breath.
Cigar smoke is one of the stronger smoking-related types of halitosis. When cigars are smoked, they give off a very pungent odor that is distinctive to many people. According to a recent article, a group of chemists have gotten together to identify the specific chemicals that make this type of bad breath so distinctive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long warned us that any type of tobacco can stain teeth and cause bad breath. A cigar smoker's breath is often strong because smoking a cigar involves holding the hot, strong smoke in one's mouth for an extended period of time. This results in a strong stench remaining in the mouth, teeth and on the tongue. A group of researchers at the William Wrigley, Jr. Company all decided to smoke cigars -- in the name of science, of course. After smoking the cigars, each researcher took tongue scrapings and put them through a gas chromatography device. This separated the samples into their basic compounds, and the researches then smelled each sample. Testing found that cigar breath apparently comes from a combination of three molecules: 2-ethylpyrrole which is described as smelling "musty," 2-ethylpyridine which has a "nutty stench" to it, and 2,3-dimethylpyrazine which was described as a savory or meaty smell. Researchers stated that the presence of these funky smelling molecules is logical, as they are known for being creating during the drying or combustion of tobacco. What was their suggestion to be rid of cigar breath? Either don't smoke cigars or use specialty breath-freshening products that are designed to fight bad breath.
While smoking the occasional cigar is perfectly legal, toxicologists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden announced a new method of drug testing that is much like the tried and true breathalyzer for some illegal substances. While the average bad breath contains tons of organic compounds and volatile sulfur compounds, using illegal drugs may add additional compounds to your breath and now according to a recent article, there is a new technology that can detect them.
The team in Sweden published their findings in a recent edition of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology. A group of people that were recently admitted to medical facilities for amphetamine use were the test subjects. They were asked to breathe into a specially built mask for ten minutes. The participants' breath was passed through a filter where the scientists inspected the contents using mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography. Test results showed that researchers were able to detects drugs on subjects' breath as low as 0.2 trillionths of a gram per minute -- this is far more advanced as the physical effects of amphetamines had long disappeared. Existing urine and blood analysis technology can't detect such small amounts of drugs in one's system. The team suggests using this type of breath-testing in conjunction with breathalyzers in individual cases of suspected drug abuse. It has been documented that using amphetamines and methamphetamines can cause dry mouth and gingivitis as side effects. Worse yet, heavy amphetamines users can develop "meth mouth" which the American Dental Association states can cause teeth to develop severe amounts of tartar, causing teeth to rot and fall out.
Breath analysis research is being done for more than just detecting drug abuse, but also to detect early signs of illnesses. The journal Analytical Chemistry announced a new detection method of exhaled acetone, which may indicate the onset of type 1 diabetes. It was also reported in an article that a recent issue of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Sensors Journal stated that scientists have new breath-analyzing devices that detect the presence of certain compounds via "micro-hotplates." These hotplates are composed of electrified plates just one hundredth of a millimeter wide and are used to detect changes in gas density on one's breath. This technology was developed by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and can detect molecules such as acetone (which in excess may indicate diabetes) in amounts as little as several parts per billion. The researchers that conducted this study determined that this modified breath-analysis device may be able to also find some forms of cancer. Given this research, it is possible that in the not-too-distant future, our yearly physicals may also include a breath test as well!
Along with illness, bad breath can be a side effect of many different factors including diet, stress level and oral care. But what is the bacterium that actually causes bad breath? Biological physicists at the University of Buffalo's School of Medicine believe they know the answer. The school reported that a strain of bacteria that emits volatile sulfur compounds may be the cause of a large portion of cases of halitosis in humans. According to a study published in the Journal of Breath Research, it found that 100 percent of participants who had bad breath had traces of the Solobacterium moorei on their tongues. Conversely, only 14 percent of participants without bad breath had tongue scraping samples that contained the bacteria. Past studies have associated bad breath with this microorganism. It creates smelly sulfuric compounds as a side effect of its digestion. Hydrogen sulfide, in particular is often associated by the human nose as a rotten egg-like odor. This recent paper in the Journal of Breath Research concludes that the S. moorei bacterial strain is scientifically and officially associated with bad breath.
Despite that fact that bad breath has been around for centuries, the research on bad breath is constantly changing and evolving. Our breath tells a lot about us -- possibly whether or not we have a disease or if we are using drugs or smoking. Make sure to maintain a healthy oral care regimen and use oxygenating products that will rid your mouth of bad breath so you can always be confident and have your breath as fresh as possible.