Why can't science cure bad breath?
SUMMARY: It's an interesting halitosis-related question, considering how far science has come in terms of eradicating more pernicious problems in the U.S., like smallpox or polio. If you worry that maybe researchers have given up looking for ways to zap bad breath, you may take comfort knowing they haven't, not by a long shot.
Posted: July 1, 2011
It's an interesting halitosis-related question, considering how far science has come in terms of eradicating more pernicious problems in the U.S., like smallpox or polio. If you worry that maybe researchers have given up looking for ways to zap bad breath, you may take comfort knowing they haven't, not by a long shot.
In fact, an article in a recent issue of the Journal of the California Dental Association addressed this notion head on. Its authors, all oral health experts from the Loma Linda University School of
Dentistry, said that "malodorous breath...oddly persists in a society rife with scienti?c and medical advancements."
This statement is essentially true. Oral odor is an extremely common condition. The authors estimate that 50 percent of the entire U.S. population has reported having bad breath at one time or another. One half of these people have endured or are currently suffering from chronic bad breath, the team added.
With the problem so widespread, why is there no cure? First of all, the word "cure" means something radically different from the word "treatment."
There are plenty of treatments for halitosis. In fact, there are literally thousands of oral-odor-fighting products available online. Some mint-based items merely mask bad breath; others, like BLIS K12 oral care probiotics, attack the odor at its source by gradually replacing harmful oral bacteria.
But, no, there is currently no cure, for one simple reason. Unlike smallpox or polio - which were not "cured," by the way, so much as eradicated by inoculation - bad breath is caused by dozens or even hundreds of pathogens.
According to experts quoted by ABC News, the average mouth contains up to 600 hundred strains of bacteria, which amounts to tens of billions of microbes on your tongue, teeth, gums and palate.
If halitosis were caused solely by one species of microorganism, scientists might have a better chance of developing a "bad breath vaccine." However, with so many strains causing oral odor, there is no panacea for pungency just yet.
That said, there are plenty of effective treatments. Probiotic products, for example, attack odor-causing strains of bacteria by slowly muscling them out and introducing less irritating varieties.
Likewise, some specialty breath freshening products, like tongue scrapers or oral rinses, are designed to target the aromatic compounds produced by microbes - called volatile sulfur compounds - and to neutralize them.