The Specialist

Thousands of Bahamians suffer from chronic bad breath

Several thousand Bahamians suffer from halitosis or chronic bad breath, a socially debilitating condition. As a result of its social impact, many purchase chewing gum, mints, sprays, or mouth rinses in excessive numbers in an attempt to improve their breath. None of these products actually cure the condition but just temporarily mask its effects.

Bad breath is no laughing matter. In fact, in the United States, an estimated two billion dollars a year is spent on over-the-counter products. Some individuals withdraw from social interaction with others, affecting their professional lives. It also can create embarrassment in their love lives.

Bad breath is a bacteria-related dental disease. All mouth bacteria are not the same. Bacteria associated with periodontal disease have a different type of bacteria that cause bone loss and bleeding. Many of these bacteria cause bad breath because of the rotting gases from the waste of bacteria deep inside gum pockets.

Some people have stinker breath than others because some types of germs smell more offensive than others. Treating periodontal disease eliminates the bacteria responsible for bad breath from the bacteria in infected pockets. However, the bacteria in other areas of the oral cavity will still need to be addressed.

Certain foods, like garlic and onions, give off a gas called methyl sulfide. Since this gas cannot be digested, it passes through the blood stream to your lungs and skin where it comes out of our pores. Your skin will smell like garlic.

Consistent and long-term dry mouth is called xerostomia. Some common causes are damage to your salivary glands. Some side effects of many drugs such as anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, and even allergy medicines like antihistamines also cause constant dry mouth.

People who suffer from diabetes and liver disease tend to suffer from chronic bad breath. The buildup of wastes in the blood leads to a metallic taste in the mouth that produces the odor. Conditions like acid-reflux causes food return up in the throat which mixes with bacteria and other enzymes to cause bad breath. Also, late-stage liver disease and severe sinusitis, or post-nasal drip, contribute to bad breath. This is because of the limited oxygen in areas with a large supply of bacteria.

Long-term bad breath

To understand halitosis, you must understand the root cause. The root cause of halitosis is a buildup of volatile sulphur compounds (VSC). These are the waste from bacteria.

These compounds form below the saliva layer on the back of the tongue as a result of the breakdown of proteins caused by bacteria. The worst of these odors are the fecal smell of methyl mercaptan, the rotting corpse scent of cadaverine, or the rotting meat smell of putrescine.

Not all sufferers of halitosis are aware of their condition. For some reason, most people can detect the bad breath of others, but not their own. There is little correlation between a bad taste and bad breath. So, it is difficult for an individual to gauge their own breath scent. It’s often up to family and friends to inform them of the condition – but of course this is very subjective.

Today, we can objectively measure the degree of VSCs with the use of a machine called a Halimeter. It’s a simple and painless digital device that measures the VSCs from your oral cavity, then give you a reading. At Center for Specialized Dentistry, our patients now know the facts about mouth odor and how to treat it.

• Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or

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