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Bad Breath! I Fear Meeting People

Posted December. 19, 2004 22:58,   


Recently, an office worker, known as Cheong, 34, living in Anam-dong Chongro-gu, Seoul, has developed a habit of covering his mouth.

This became a habit after he heard from a co-worker not long ago, “You have nasty bad breath.” Cheong was not that embarrassed since he was a close colleague of his, but that did not mean he could dismiss the remarks.

To this day, Mr. Cheong was rarely told that he had bad breath, and now this became a headache. It was somewhat ridiculous to consult the doctor because of a “mere” breath problem. Nonetheless, he could not just leave it untreated because he was afraid to meet other people. He was also concerned that a disease might have something to do with the bad breath.

▽Bad breath, More Serious in Winter

In many cases, you develop bad breath when there is inflammation or a cavity. However, this is generally not associated with seasonal factors.

If you have bad breath during the winter, this indicates that you have a cold or rhinitis. Cheong himself is frequently affected with a head cold in winters.

Stuffy nose due to a cold tends to make you breathe through your mouth. This results in dry mouth and less saliva, and the microbes and germs that should be swallowed with saliva remain on the tongue. These mix with the remaining saliva and create volatile sulfur compounds and fatty acids, which are the very cause of bad breath.

Bad breath also occurs when the mucous of your nose and dust go down the throat. The germs stay at somewhere around the esophagus and generate a bad smell. Tonsillitis makes the most favorable environment for germs to thrive with the inflammation, which causes more severe bad breath.

The best way to treat bad breath is to go to the otorhinolaryngology and cure the source diseases, such as rhinitis and tonsillitis.

If you cannot afford to visit the doctor, try drinking water or tea every day as often as you can to help saliva secretion. Also, acidic fruit is effective in eliminating the smell. Use a mouthwash frequently if you have tonsillitis. This will free your mouth of the bad breath for at least an hour or so.

▽If You Always Seem to Have Bad Breath

Serious diabetes can cause your mouth to smell like acetone by building up ketones. Individuals with uremia, whose bodies build up with impurities in the blood and suffer from deterioration of the kidney, tend to give off an ammonia-like smell with the poison dissolving in the mouth.

Nonetheless, other reasons besides the above-mentioned diseases can cause bad breath.

In particular, a majority of adults experience bad breath right after they get up from bed in the morning. This is a phenomenon in which the functioning of the salivary gland stops temporarily and the food remnants in the mouth go bad while sleeping. However, this is nothing to worry about, as it will go away after talking for some time.

Bad breath can develop in an empty stomach. This is estimated to be caused by a deteriorated self-purification ability to destroy germs as the saliva generation slows down in empty stomachs.

The “tongue coat” is one of the big causes for bad breath. The outer-side of the tongue frequently bumps against ceiling of the mouth, so germs are unlikely to be active. In contrast, the inner side of the tongue is full of germs. Therefore, do not let queasiness stop you from brushing the inner-side of the tongue.

(Information from Yun Joo-heon with Severance Hospital’s Otorhinolaryngology Department, Otorhinolaryngology Professor Cheong Seung-gyu and Periodontics Professor Kye Seung-beom with Samsung Medical Center)

Sang Hoon Kim corekim@donga.com