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Bacteria's Role in Bad Breath

When it comes to the mouth and oral health, some people may think about bacteria and other organisms that can't be seen by naked eye, but the large number of bacteria within the mouth likely goes on unnoticed by the majority of people. With over six hundred types of bacteria in the human mouth at any given time, there are bound to be occasional problems, one of the most undesirable and embarrassing of which is halitosis, or bad breath.

The Life and Times of Oral Bacteria The highest concentration of bacteria is typically located on the back of the tongue. Here, bacteria lives and multiplies in grooves and crannies below the surface, making it difficult to brush them away. Layers and films of decaying food particles, post-nasal drip, and other materials treat bacteria to a veritable smorgasbord of energy and accommodations, and when certain types of bacteria, called anaerobic, have set up shop on the tongue (though the cheeks, tonsils, and inter-dental cavities are also suspect areas), they produce the materials capable of making the breath smell especially foul. Anaerobic bacteria feed on various proteins within the mouth, and break these proteins down into amino acids. The breakdown of these amino acids, in turn, involves the release of certain substances called Volatile Sulfur Compounds, or VSCs. These compounds are responsible for creating bad breath, and there are many different kinds.

Understanding VSCs Hydrogen sulfide, a common VSC, has the odor of rotten eggs and is poisonous in more substantial amounts than those produced by mouth-borne bacteria. Methyl Mercaptan reminds most people of rotten cabbage, and Skatole, though present in some floral essential oils in tiny amounts, typically has a fecal scent in concentrations within the mouth. Both are frequently-reported VSCs involved in halitosis. Cadaverine, as the name suggests, is often associated with the putrefaction of animal meat, and has an unpleasant odor; Putrescine is closely related. Isovaleric Acid retains a cheesy or sweaty smell, and dimethyl disulfide produces an unpleasant smell that can be noticed when cooking some foods including beetroot and certain types of seafood. By themselves or in combination, these substances are easily

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able to impact the odor of the mouth, causing bad breath that may persist even after brushing the teeth or flossing. To combat these types of bacteria while still promoting the healthy growth of “good� bacteria in the mouth (after all, we rely on various bacteria throughout our bodies to stay healthy and take care of various functions), special cleaning techniques and products can be used by dental professionals and their patients at home.

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Bacteria's Role in Bad Breath