Bad breath, halitosis aren't contagious, but beware
SUMMARY: It's not the "kissing disease," but still...
Posted: April 25, 2012
Having bad breath, halitosis, oral odor or whatever you want to call it, can be a real drag. Whether you wake up with dragon breath or go to sleep with a food-based funk in your mouth, this problem can interfere with nearly every aspect of daily living. And a little-remarked-upon aspect of oral odor is that is not contagious.
The cause of 99 percent of all cases of bad breath is bacteria. Even halitosis that comes from smelly foods or smoking is usually aggravated by the mouth's microbes. These microorganisms populate the tongue, palate and gums by the billions. Many of them are harmless. Others aren't.
Several dozen species of bacteria emit the odorous molecules - called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) - that give halitosis its distinctive odor. And in case you think that’s the only harm that such microbes can cause, keep in mind that these same strains can attack tooth enamel, infect gums, worsen the extent of plaque and lead to periodontal disease.
Fortunately, nearly all oral bacteria cannot be spread from person to person. There are several commonly suspected vectors. The most scowled at, as you can probably guess, is kissing. But this does not, in the end, spread halitosis.
Other ways that people suspect they spread bad breath (but don't) include sharing silverware, sipping from the same cup or straw, sharing some other oral device (like a toothbrush or a musical instrument's mouthpiece) or, rarely, having someone cough or sneeze extremely close to your face. Still, even though oral odor isn't contagious, it's nevertheless a sign of poor dental health. And because you can't catch halitosis from others, if your breath smells, it's hard to blame anyone but yourself.
To prevent the bad breath, halitosis and other oral issues that stem from bacteria, don't feel like you need to avoid smooching. Instead, use specialty breath freshening products that neutralize microbes. The best products are whitening gels, probiotics, canker sore remedies and oral rinses that eliminate microorganisms using all-natural ingredients.