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The Sacramento Bee

Taming ‘dragon mouth’; Dentist Harold Katz is committed to educating consumers about bad breath

By Dan Vierria
The Sacramento Bee (27 August 2006)

Dr. Harold Katz can’t get enough bad breath.

“All I do is bad breath,” says Katz, the former Beverly Hills dentist and founder of The California Breath Clinics. “I’m going up to Calgary next week. I’m the bad breath guru of Canada. I’ll be smelling Canadian breath.”

Twelve years ago Katz began experimenting with compounds that counter anaerobic sulfur-producing bacteria — the beasties responsible for what we lovingly refer to as dragon mouth and tuna breath. He came to conclusions contrary to what consumers hear in advertisements.

“Traditional oral hygiene doesn’t do the trick,” he says. “Bacteria thrives on tonsils and the back of the tongue. Traditional mouthwashes and toothpastes don’t reach that kind of bacteria.”

Dry mouth triggers bad breath. Katz points to these dry mouth culprits — prescription medications (especially for depression and high blood pressure), alcohol and antihistamines.

Katz, who has developed products to combat bad breath (or 800-973-7374 for retail locations and product information), had much to say about his specialty.

Q:    What foods can cause bad breath?

A:    Onions and garlic. They already contain sulfur. Dairy foods are a big problem. Cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts but most people don’t like them anyway. Coffee is a problem because of the acids. I recommend tea, which is very mild on the breath.

We discovered people who work out a lot and those who drink alcohol tend to have bad breath. Smoking. I guess it’s not a food, but it’s bad for your breath and also for your gums.

Q:    Why are people so concerned about bad breath?

A:    It’s their love life. But many (are concerned) because of their breath at the workplace. They’re very uncomfortable at work talking to others. They don’t want to offend anyone. They almost cover their mouth when they talk.

Sometimes the problem is somebody else at work. They’ll call us and say, “My boss has bad breath and I don’t want to tell him.” We’ll say, “Tell us and give us his e-mail address and we’ll tell him.” We’ll send something like, “Somebody very close to you is concerned about your oral health.” It works.

Q:    Do actors really seek you out to freshen breath before the big kissing scenes?

A:    My L.A. clinic is right next door to 20th Century Fox Studios. The soap opera stars come over to make sure they’re kissable in the big scene. I’ve been told (some are) smoking and drinking between scenes.

Q:    You use a device called a Halimeter® to gauge the degree of bad breath in your clinics. What’s been the worst breath to date?

A:    In the mid-1990s, this doctor from Sacramento came in and his breath was horrendous. (The doctor recorded a score of 1,800 on the Halimeter®. A reading above 70 indicates offensive breath.) He complained that his patients never came back after the first visit. It turned out he was a big smoker and a wine connoisseur.

Q:    What are the best home remedies for bad breath?

A:    Floss after every meal. The most recent research says flossing twice a day may add five years to your life. Baking soda is a good backup because it works as an antacid. A lot of problems with the mouth are because of acid.

Q:    Do breath mints and sprays work?

A:    The reality is you have to look at the ingredients. If it contains sugar, you’re going to have a problem. Sugar feeds bacteria. Altoids have two types of real sugars and proteins. Tic Tacs aren’t as bad. Always look for something sugar-free.

Q:    Is that sprig of mint on your restaurant plate going to freshen breath?

A:    Better than mint is celery because it contains more water. People should drink eight glasses of water a day to replenish moisture. Some vegetables and most fruits are very good. A juicy watermelon is great.

Q:    Did your breath have anything to do with your decision to specialize in bad breath?

A:    My daughter had the problem with bad breath. In 1993, she was 13 and told me her friends always complained about her bad breath. They were always giving her mints.