This week, Tidbits breathes in some facts on halitosis, a condition that affects about 25% of the population. What is it? Bad breath!
• The makers of Listerine came up with the term halitosis in the early 1900s. The owner’s son combined the Latin word “halitus,” meaning “breath,” with the Greek suffix “osis,” intending the word to sound like a medical condition.
• The inventor of Listerine was Dr. Joseph Lawrence, a St. Louis doctor who admired the work of British doctor and surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lister, considered the founding father of antiseptics. Lister was the first surgeon to perform an operation in an operating chamber sterilized with antiseptic, along with instruments cleansed with carbolic acid, resulting in a drastic reduction in post-operative infections. Dr. Lawrence developed an alcohol-based formula to use as a surgical antiseptic and named in Listerine in honor of Lister. Lawrence then licensed his product to a local pharmacist.
• Listerine was put forth to dentists in 1895, and was sold as the first over-the-counter mouthwash in America in 1914.
• Listerine claimed it killed “the germs found in the mouth,” and, indeed, the most common cause of halitosis is poor oral hygiene. The breakdown by bacteria of particles of food left in the mouth produces sulfur compounds, creating a foul odor. If you eat garlic, onions, or certain spices, as the body breaks down these compounds, they enter the bloodstream, and are carried to the lungs, and even your skin, which affects your breath.
• Tobacco users not only have bad breath, they are more likely to have gum disease, another contributor to halitosis.
• There’s a fancy name for dry mouth — xerostomia – a major factor in bad breath. Saliva helps cleanse your mouth, clearing food particles from the mouth and preventing unwanted bacteria. If you’re sufficiently hydrated, you’ll have healthy amounts of saliva. Reduced production can result from consuming dehydrating beverages such as coffee and alcohol. Certain medications can affect saliva production, such as antihistamines, diuretics, sedatives, and antidepressants. Sleeping with your mouth open dries out your mouth. We all know about the resulting morning breath!
• Infections from oral surgery, such as tooth removal, can cause halitosis, as can tooth decay, gum disease, or mouth sores. Inflamed tonsils and sinus infections can also contribute. Those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer can have a unique mouth odor as a result of the chemicals. Acid reflux disease can also produce an unpleasant breath odor.
• Although vitamin supplements can be a great way to boost your immune system, those who take them in large quantities are prone to bad breath. Frequent dieting, especially those focused on quick weight loss with an unbalanced diet, can lead your body to function abnormally, and contribute to bad breath.
• Americans spend about $660 million a year on products, such as gum, mints, and mouthwashes, to give them fresh breath. It’s the third most common reason people go to the dentist, right after tooth decay and gum disease. Aside from underlying health conditions, the best treatment for halitosis is regular brushing, flossing, and keeping your mouth hydrated.