Halitosis, or bad breath, is an underestimated problem affecting a significant proportion of the global population. Masking agents are frequently used to cover bad breath, but studies have shown that the use of mouthrinses, sprays, and mints containing an agreeable masking odor only have a short-term effect since you’re not treating the cause, so the exclusive usage of masking products is never an effective management of the problem.

Bad breath is caused by oral putrefaction, the degradation of certain amino acids mostly derived by bacterial breakdown of proteins in your mouth. Specifically, bacteria degrade the sulfur-containing amino acids, such as cysteine and methionine, into malodorous compounds like the rotten egg gas hydrogen sulfide, so called volatile sulfur compounds.

Tooth brushing alone does not significantly reduce oral malodor, but adding tongue cleaning, such as tongue scraping, is beneficial. If bad breath persists after improving tongue and dental hygiene, an active zinc-based mouth rinse can be introduced. Zinc binds directly to the volatile sulfur compounds and prevents them from gassing out of your mouth, and mouth rinses containing ZnCl2 without alcohol have been found to be effective on halitosis.

However, since the substrates for production of volatile sulfur compounds are the sulfur-containing amino-acids, which are derived mainly from animal protein, such as meat and dairy, a dietary approach to halitosis may be effective. Limiting the amount of consumed proteins may significantly reduce fetor ex ore, from the Latin meaning “stench mouth.” Dairy products, for example, are known to break down in the mouth, leading to the release of sulphur-rich amino acids. The milk protein casein is rich in the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine, which is a precursor to the formation of the rotten-egg gas hydrogen sulfide in the oral cavity, so skipping dairy may help with halitosis.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

Image Credit: Pixabay. This image has been modified.

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