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The Miami Herald

What’s the answer for that foul mouth?

By Dr. Sean Kenniff
The Miami Herald (2 August 2005)

Q: What causes chronic bad breath?

A: Most of us have experienced bad breath, or halitosis, from time to time. But according to Dr. Harold Katz, a dentist and renowned breath researcher, bad bacteria are probably to blame for chronic halitosis.

“These bacteria live on the back of the tongue, throat, and tonsil area,” Katz says.

Studies have shown some bacteria produce sulfur-containing compounds that leave the breath malodorous. Getting rid of the bacteria with special mouthwashes usually helps solve the problem. Poor oral hygiene is also a common cause of chronic bad breath.

There is also situational halitosis, like bad breath caused by medical illnesses or medications that leave the mouth dry or alter the bacterial environment of the oral cavity. But the most common form of bad breath is called occasional bad breath. Dietary factors play an important role, Katz says.

“There are certain foods that will give you bad breath because they smell bad themselves, like onions, garlic, curry,” he says. “When the foods break down they release sulfur compounds that smell similar to the bacteria.”

Bad breath can actually be measured with a device called a Halimeter. Anyone with persistent bad breath should seek the advice of a doctor or dentist for a thorough check-up.