The Science behind Bad Breath


The term halitosis is the technical term for bad breath. A fun fact is that the word was actually invented by the makers of Listerine in the 19th Century.

It is derived the term from Latin ‘halitus’ meaning breath and ‘osis’ a pathological condition. – Ken Lau

The science behind the bad breath

There 3 main gases which cause bad breath. The Halicheck machine measures the amount of each gas in parts per million. Of which there is a threshold for each where the human nose can detect the halitosis.

  • Hydrogen sulphite (smells like rotten eggs) is caused by breakdown of the amino acid cysteine. This gas is produced by the bacteria in plaque.
  • Methyl mercaptan (smells like faeces) is caused by bacteria found in the gag reflex area and under the gums.
  • Dimethyl sulphide (smells like cabbage or petrol) is from bacteria found in the throat area. It is a indicator of post nasal drip or sinus problems.

The science behind the solutions

The science behind probiotics to stop recurring bad breath caused by plaque and white tongue,.

The first is a probiotic K12 (Streptococcus salivarius). This is a naturally occurring probiotic found in 2% of the population. In healthy people with no halitosis it was found that up to 40% of their good bacteria on their tongue was from K12 Kazor et al, 2003.

Since then it has been found that K12 stops bad breath.

K12 lozenges will stop halitosis caused by plaque and and in particular white tongue. (Burton et al 2005)

The science behind “dry mouth”

About 2/3rds of dry mouth (scientific term is xerostomia) is associated with medication use. 400 commonly prescribed medications have dry mouth as a known side effect. e.g. Antidepressants, Painkillers and blood pressure tablets.

Medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes and Sjrogren’s syndrome all cause dry mouth. Lifestyle factors such as smoking and drug and alcohol use results in xerostomia as well.

People who suffer from dry mouth show a higher reading from the Oral Chroma machine. Higher teeth decay rates are also seen. In the past dentists have prescribed gels, mousses and non-irritant toothpastes.

Recently a study found that a mouthrinses and gum with green tea extract increased saliva production by 380% (saliva production at rest) and 218% (saliva production when eating) De Rossi et al 2014

Whilst this may not eliminate dry mouth with results similar to this a great improvement can be had both for dry mouth and bad breath.


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