The Different Kinds of Bad Breath, Part 5: Exhaustion Breath

04/25/2012 03:11 pm ET | Updated Jun 25, 2012

Okay, let's do one last post in our bad breath series. I know you are all probably tired of bad breath by this point, but as an NYC Cosmetic Dentist, it's a question I get asked about all the time. Now I can point people here, where they can learn about the different kinds of bad breath.

Let's recap a bit. The articles in this series have focused on "tonsil breath," "lung Breath," "sinus breath," and then last week, we moved down to "stomach breath."

So really, I've covered all of the typical "clinical" causes of bad breath -- tonsils, lungs, sinuses, and stomach. Except the most obvious one -- your mouth. But it's not as simple as just "mouth breath" -- see, as you learned in the other articles, your sinuses, tonsils, etc., can affect your mouth and give you bad breath. So today, we're going to go over a phenomenon that I essentially call "exhaustion breath." This is my own term, and it's one that covers all the stuff in your mouth. You'll see why I call it "exhaustion breath" shortly, but suffice to say, this is "working-all-day-dirty-mouth breath." Oh, it's pretty stinky, too.

I mention "working" above, as I feel that this phenomenon is most prevalent in what happens to many people during a typical workday. But, obviously, you can fit it into any situation, on any day. Hey, kids and retired people get "exhaustion breath" too! It's just that using "work" is a common identifier.

All right, here's what "exhaustion breath" is -- it's when your body's systems that cleanse your mouth/breath are simply worn out ("exhausted") from your daily activities. This allows bad breath to become fairly noticeable. Usually it peaks around 3 p.m. for a typical 9-5 working person. Here are the things that contribute to exhaustion breath:

• Coffee -- The lifeblood of workers everywhere, coffee (and other caffeinated drinks) are everywhere. Most offices even have coffeemakers, and from all accounts, people drink a lot of coffee. However, coffee is not only smelly on its own ("coffee breath" is never pleasant), it's also fairly well-known that it decreases saliva production and dries out your mouth (1). And like we learned in other posts, a dry mouth is one that bacteria grow in, making your breath smell. So loading up on coffee all morning will help your breath smell bad.

• Food (and not brushing) -- You brush your teeth before you leave your house, and then have a bagel on the way to work (along with the above-mentioned coffee). Then there's more coffee. A granola bar at 10:30 a.m., because hey, it's break time (and still more coffee). Then lunch. Today it was an Italian Sub (with onions!) Then you have a snack around 2:30 p.m. -- usually something with a lot of carbs that fosters bacteria-rich mucus. Maybe if you are hardcore, there's another cup of coffee in there.

So, did you brush your teeth during all of this? If you are like a majority of office workers (and any kind of worker, really), the answer is "no, I did not." Well, that's a lot of food particles stuck in your teeth. Combined with the coffee you've been slugging down, that makes an even dirtier mouth (as saliva helps wash away food particles). Oh, and the food leads to other bad breaths, burping, etc. This leads to afternoon exhaustion breath. No wonder you weren't invited to the big meeting...

• Stress -- "But Tom, I don't drink coffee... I'm safe, right?" Well, not really. You see, when we are stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, which studies have shown to further dry your mouth (2). So no, even if you don't drink coffee, work stress will help "exhaust" your body's natural defense against food particles and bad breath (and let's face it, who doesn't get stressed at work?).

• Talking -- Talking dries out your mouth too. Do you talk a lot at work? Many people do.

So as you can see, there's a lot going on during the day that contributes to bad breath. But there are a few things you can do to help yourself:

• Limit your coffee -- Really, I know this is sacrilege to many, but limiting your coffee intake will help your breath.

• Stay hydrated -- Replace that coffee with good old water. No not, soda (or even diet soda), but water. Water is really good for you, in more ways than one.

• Brush your teeth during work -- Who cares if your coworkers snicker at you brushing your teeth in the bathroom? You should do this after your morning bagel, after your lunch, and after your snack. Your teeth will be healthier, your mouth will feel cleaner, and your breath will smell better.

Do all of the above, and maybe you'll get invited to more meetings... which may or may not be all that much of a treat, now that I think about it.

Until next time, keep smiling.

For more by Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S., click here.

For more on personal health, click here.