So you have halitosis and you want to get rid of it? Leave it to the experts at TheraBreath, who have spent years investigating the causes of oral odor. They know that treating bad breath, not to mention other oral health conditions, often means knowing what makes breath bad in the first place.
This principle extends to the field of medicine in general, as exemplified by a study appearing in the Journal of Breath Research (JBR). In it, Japanese scientists from Kyushu Dental College described measuring levels of oral odor molecules, called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), in order to see if any are associated with age-related illnesses.
Why try to connect halitosis with disease? The team explained that finding such connections might help physicians detect health conditions earlier among their elderly patients. To do so would require a deep knowledge of three common VSCs: hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan and dimethyl sulfide.
- Hydrogen sulfide (H2S): This VSC is public enemy number one when it comes to treating bad breath. Produced by the bacteria in your mouth, it tinges air with the smell of rotten eggs, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. H2S tends to be found in high concentrations in nearly all bad breath.
- Methyl mercaptan (MM): Besides being produced by oral microbes, MM has a second origin. If you've ever eaten cabbage, you probably know what MM smells like, since this molecule gives the vegetable its distinctive smell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Dimethyl sulfide (DMS): This VSC formed the crux of the JBR study. Researchers found that high levels of DMS on the breath were associated with a greater prevalence of high cholesterol, asthma and a history of colon polyps. The team concluded that DMS-detecting tests might be a good indicator of an elderly patient's health status.
What does DMS smell like? It's hard to describe. The Gaylord Chemical Corporation puts its succinctly enough, listing it only as "stench."