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Frequently Asked Questions

Bad Breath Can Be “Dragon’s Breath”

Written By Dr. Kyle Griffith

Questions about mouth odor or bad breath arise frequently in the dental office. One of my patients, a young man in his twenties, was really disturbed because some of his close personal friends had mentioned concerns over his breath and he was distressed that it might affect his relationships with the opposite sex.

"Not to worry," I said.

Halitosis, also known as bad breath or in this case "dragon's breath", is an unpleasant condition that can affect both genders and all age groups. Multiple studies have been done to determine the percentage of the population that suffers from halitosis, but the results have a wide variance. It can be approximated that roughly 25% of the population have some relative degree of halitosis.

90% of halitosis originates from the mouth. I reassured my patient that with some relatively simple steps, we most likely would be able to "tame the dragon" and reduce his experiences with halitosis.

But what even causes bad breath? The answer lies in the interaction between the bacteria in the mouth and what they "eat" or degrade. To date, over 500 species of bacteria, fungi, and viruses have been found in the mouth. As time and research march on, more are surely to be found. It is primarily the bacteria that cause halitosis. These bacteria degrade food particles, dead cells, and proteins found in saliva. This process of degradation produces volatile molecules, which to state it bluntly, smell bad.

These bacteria are mainly found coating the tongue or in periodontal pockets, also known as "gum disease". Xerostomia, or "dry mouth", increases the intensity of these volatile compounds as well. In rare instances, respiratory or gastrointestinal problems can cause halitosis. Another condition is halitophobia, or delusional halitosis", a psychological condition in which a person is obsessed with the possibility of having bad breath. That is why it is important to have a thorough examination to determine the root cause of the halitosis.

So what can be done about it? I recommend three simple actions:

First, when performing oral hygiene, clean the top of your tongue. A tongue scraper has been found to be roughly 10% more effective at cleaning the tongue than brushing your tongue with your toothbrush.

Second, stay hydrated. Remember, dry mouth only increases bad breath.

Third, schedule an appointment for a comprehensive dental examination. We need to make sure that "gum disease" or another oral condition is not contributing to halitosis.

If, after trying these three simple steps, there are still concerns that the halitosis "dragon" has not been tamed, a referral to your primary care physician is warranted to rule out non-dental conditions that could potentially be exacerbating halitosis.

58 Dental understands that halitosis can have a significant effect on people's lives. Please do not hesitate to contact the office if you have questions or concerns regarding this oral condition.

PubMed Article: Halitosis

Kyle Griffith DMD
7090 E. Hampden Ave.
Denver, CO. 80224