Most people know that eating onions or garlic will cause halitosis, commonly known as bad breath – but many people don't know why. It's because sulfur is nature's way of creating odors – and onions and garlic contain molecules called mercaptan, a type of sulfur compound. Volatile sulfur compounds, or VSCs, emerge when an amino acid called cysteine is converted to hydrogen sulfide (the primary cause of "rotten egg" odors). These malodorous sulfur compounds are released by the anaerobic bacteria that occur naturally in your oral environment. The bacteria assist in the digestive process by breaking down the proteins found in the food you eat, but are also to blame for halitosis.
There are four main food categories that activate the bacteria that produce these foul smelling sulfur compounds.
Drying agents – The most common drying agent in food and beverages is alcohol. In fact, alcohol causes the worst form of dry mouth, because the flow of saliva is substantially inhibited, as is the oxygen content of the mouth. Alcohol is the basis of all adult beverages such as beer, wine, and hard liquor. Compounding this problem is that many popular, brand name mouthwashes contain up to 27% alcohol. Consequently, alcohol based mouthwashes make the mouth very dry, which will actually exacerbate the problem.
Dense protein foods – Dairy, meat, and fish contain dense proteins that can lead to halitosis. While dairy contains nutrients necessary for bone health, consumption of these products creates an oral condition in which proteins are easily broken down into VSC excretions by anaerobic bacteria. This is especially true for lactose intolerant people, because the buildup of proteins during digestion is even greater. Interestingly, an article in the Los Angeles Times noted that more than 50% of the population in southern California is lactose intolerant.
Other common protein-dense foods that may cause this problem are eggs, several types of nuts and seeds, and many types of beans and lentils.
Sugars – Bacteria that cause bad breath use sugars as a super fuel. Candies, mints, and chewing gum that contain sugar do not eliminate this problem. In fact, the sugar in most breath mints actually causes the anaerobic bacteria to become super active and create even more offensive, sulfur compounds. Strong mint or fruit flavors mask foul breath, but do nothing to combat the bacteria causing this problem, and further, can make your breath worse.
In addition, other types of bacteria in your mouth use sugars to produce glycan strands, which cause thick layers of plaque on your enamel and around your gums. These glycan strands lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.
If you need to use breath mints or chew gum, use products that contain Xylitol as a sweetening agent. It is a natural product has been shown in recent scientific studies to help prevent tooth decay.
Acidic Foods – Science notes that acids may cause bacteria to reproduce much faster. Neutralizing this acidic condition is necessary to inhibit bacterial growth and reduce VSC emission, which means avoiding or limiting consumption of acidic foods or beverages. Common culprits are coffee, tomato juice, pineapple juice, all citrus juices, sodas, pasta sauce, ketchup, pickles, fatty meats, olives, butter, and chocolate.
Sufficient salivary flow is necessary to neutralize acids that come from foods as well as the stomach (acid reflux). Saliva is rich with natural buffers and minerals that contribute to optimal oral health. When the mouth is dry, acids are given free rein to erode tooth enamel, eat away at gumlines, and promote anaerobic bacterial production. The potential consequences of consuming acidic foods are the rapid development of cavities, gingivitis, and bad breath.
Dentists can check the pH level of your mouth to determine whether a high acid content is contributing to chronic halitosis. A normal oral pH level is around 6.5, so any number below that is considered acidic. Levels higher than 7.0 are considered indicative of an alkaline (basic) condition.
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TheraBreath products are formulated to not only attack bacterial odors, but also the smells associated with pungent foods, no matter how malodorous. So, enjoy smelly foods to your heart's delight. Simply use TheraBreath Toothpaste and TheraBreath Oral Rinse twice daily and after you eat to prevent smelling like what you ate, or worse. Also, remember to keep plenty of TheraBreath Lozenges or TheraBreath Chewing Gum on hand, so you can destroy bad breath even when you're on the go!
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