Chemical causes of bad breath
Bad breath or oral halitosis is triggered due to the effects of bacteria. Bacteria are usually present in oral areas that are tucked away behind the tongue, and in crevices between the teeth. The mouth has all the optimal conditions for bacteria to thrive, but bad breath cannot be initiated by bacteria alone. When the food that we consume interacts with oral bacteria, it gleefully breaks down the leftover proteins present in food particles, mucous and dead cells, which form amino acids. The bacteria then dissects it further at a molecular level to release sulfuric gases and the rest is history. It is at this stage that you begin to frantically hunt for some breath-mint or the people around you flee away frenziedly.
Some oral bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide during the breakdown process, that is synonymous with the smell of rotten eggs. A few other produce chemicals like cadaverine, methyl mercaptan (that smells like feces) and putrescine ( that smells like rotten meat). These bad breath compounds are often tagged as Volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) in dentistry.
High-protein diets can lead to bad breath as well. These diets limit the carbohydrate consumption in the individual due to which the body looks at other sources for the same to breakdown fat in the individual. This results in the release of ketones in the individual whose breath smells like a blend of overripe pineapples and nail polish.
Combating bad breath with good oral hygiene
While breath-mints may keep bad breath at bay tentatively, one of the easiest ways to get rid of bad breath is by practicing good oral habits. The primary source of bad breath is remnant food particles. When your tooth brushing and flossing habits are in place you automatically cut-off the food particle supply to the bacteria. Else, the bacteria forms a transparent, sticky film on the teeth, that is more commonly known as plaque.
It is also important that you clean the back portion of the tongue as part of your oral hygiene routine with tongue scrapers or brushes. Else, there is a likeliness that it will cause gingivitis (gum irritation) and periodontal disease (development of plaque pockets in the gums and between the teeth), that tend to trigger foul breath. A fluoride toothpaste can help in effectively removing plaque and food debris. Using an anti-bacterial mouth-rinse can help in preventing bad breath as well, doing much good to you and those around you!
The Chemistry Of Bad Breath Cartoon: Lindedesign via Compfight cc.