There's a reason we say "baby's breath." But newborns - no matter how fragrant their parents might find their cooing exhalations - will face escalating challenges to oral health as they age.
Let's examine how dental care changes as we move through life's stages.
I began studying the science of bad breath to help my daughter - then 13 - when she was suffering through halitosis she found tremendously embarrassing. I'd become convinced that products then on the market had become outdated - and not particularly safe, either.
Bad breath has the same cause, regardless of a person's age: bacteria in the mouth eating, metabolizing and producing waste. Many forms of bacteria benefit us. Some kinds of anaerobic bacteria, however, secrete volatile sulfur compounds. Just think of the smells of rotten eggs, rotten cabbage and decaying organic matter. The bacteria that cause bad breath produce these odors and similar ones - none of which you'd describe as baby's breath.
It's in childhood when people would ideally inculcate the simple habits for life-long oral health. Put simply: brush, floss and rinse. These three main actions break down into seven exact steps a person of any age should use, twice a day, to gain optimal oral health and fresh breath. We've highlighted those seven steps in a previous story.
Parents may have an easier time ingraining these habits when their children are young. When the teen years hit, new challenges loom. For instance, the sugary drinks that are omnipresent in our society prove quite attractive to teens. The sugars in these sodas feed the bacteria that cause bad breath. As young people experiment with their identities, they may start drinking coffee. We all know how quickly coffee breath can sour an otherwise fresh mouth.
As we mature,oral health challenges multiply exponentially. One aspect that changes is how we should brush. Dental authorities recommend children and younger adults focus on brushing their teeth, paying perhaps less attention to gums. But adults need to shift their emphasis, since gum disease becomes more of a problem as the decades wear on.
"Smoking and drinking dry the oral cavity."
It's also in adulthood when we're more likely to begin taking medications whose side effects may worsen bad breath. Medicine that dries out the mouth makes the battle against halitosis much more difficult. Other kinds of medicine suppress our immune systems. And that makes it that much harder for the body to limit bacterial growth.
Adult habits do us no good when it comes to stopping bad breath. Smoking and drinking, for instance, both make the oral cavity dry - perfect for the growth of bad-breath-causing bacteria.
Some oral health obstacles encountered in this stage of life are simply those of adulthood. But new ones emerge. Gums continue to shrink, offering more safe harbors for bacteria. Sleep apnea becomes a problem for more people as they age, even those of us who avoid putting on stomach fat. The connection with bad breath is that breathing out of one's mouth all night dries the oral cavity significantly.
Insidiously, even products you rely on to fight bad breath can backfire. That's why it's crucial that you choose a mouthwash without alcohol. As mentioned above, alcohol is one of the many substances that dries out our mouths. For this reason, TheraBreath products - including our mouthwash - never contain alcohol or sodium lauryl sulfate.
Aging does increase the level of difficulty when aiming for maximum oral health. But with the right knowledge, good habits and correct products, you'll maintain baby's breath long into your Golden Years.