Causes of Bad Breath
There are many myths and rumors about the causes of bad breath. From underlying medical conditions to teeth cavities to decaying food particles left in the mouth. Although all these can be considered as causes of bad breath, the real cause could be traced back to one single culprit – bacteria, or more precisely, the anaerobic sulfur producing bacteria that normally live in our mouths.
These bacteria make their homes in the surface of the tongue and in the throat where they are responsible for assisting us in digestion. They help by breaking down proteins found in certain specific foods, mucous or phlegm, blood, and in diseased or “broken down” oral tissue.
When certain conditions identified as the causes of bad breath are present, these bacteria break down proteins at a much higher rate than normal. This also means that they release higher levels of waste products than normal.
The proteins in foods contain two major amino acid components – cysteine and methionine. Both of these amino acids are dense with sulfur, an extremely odorous substance. When bacteria metabolizes proteins, these sulfur components of amino acids are released as Hydrogen Sulfide, Methyl Mercaptan, and other odorous bad tasting compounds. Together, these compounds which are the causes of bad breath are known as volatile sulfur compounds.
Now, one thing you should know about these bacterial causes of bad breath is that they are anaerobic, which literally means “without oxygen.” In other words, they thrive in places where the environment contains ZERO oxygen.
You might ask why bacteria that supposedly live without oxygen could survive in the mouth where oxygen can flow freely through. Well, for the simple reason that these bacteria are smart little critters. Smart in the sense that they don’t exactly expose themselves to the oxygen-rich parts of the mouth and instead choose to hide in places where oxygen couldn’t get to them.
And where are these places? The back of your tongue, under layers of plaque, beneath food debris, and other such convenient hiding places.
So if you are wondering why you still have bad breath even though you regularly scrape your tongue and use mouthwash, then wonder no more. These bacterial causes of bad breath don’t live on the surface of your tongue. Instead, they live in between the papillae located in the back of your tongue where oxygen couldn’t get to them.
In addition, mouthwash does not normally get rid of these bacterial causes of bad breath. And make no mistake that having these bacteria in your mouth is a normal occurrence. Everyone has some type of bacterial flora in the mouth, since, as already mentioned, these microorganisms actually help in digestion. They only become a problem when these bacteria go on overdrive and release more volatile sulfur compounds, causing bad breath to be expelled.