Rotting in halitosis

Chew fennel and speak your mind to beat bad breath

Okay, people. There’s no delicate way to say this. You stink.


I swear, every time I leave the house, I encounter at least one person who smells like something is dying inside his or her mouth – and this makes sense, because when your mouth starts to decay, sulphur-containing compounds with names like putrescine and cadaverine form.

I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it myself, but I almost always carry mints or gum just in case – because you never know. I’m not sure why we can’t bring ourselves to tell others they offend, but because of this, offers a service that tells people for you – anonymously, of course.

I suggest you simply assume you have bad breath and take the steps you would to clear it up. Brush your teeth. Find out if you have gum disease and see a periodontist. Floss. Drink water.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if I offer you a mint, take the damn thing.

What the experts say

“The bacteria in your mouth produces volatile sulphur compounds when your mouth is dry, when you have post-nasal drip or after taking certain medications and eating particular foods. When you’re under stress, your sympathetic nervous system goes into gear and your mouth becomes dry. Therabreath sends out 100 anonymous notices a day. If you want to test your breath, lick the back of your hand, let it dry, then smell that. Tongue scraping only works for five minutes. Drink more water. Mouthwash full of alcohol dries the mouth.”

HAROLD KATZ, founder, California Breath Clinics, inventor, TheraBreath, Los Angeles

“Stinky breath is a product of heat in your stomach, which can be caused by alcohol, coffee, spicy foods, overeating in general. When things stick around too long, the fermenting process happens higher up this is associated with constipation. There are emotional causes, too the only negative emotion is one you don’t allow yourself to express. These might cause you to overeat. Often, with stomach problems, you can be swallowing something you need to say. Ask what you’re swallowing that’s filling you with fire. Herbs like parsley, fennel, cardamom and cinnamon can also help.”

KALEB MONTGOMERY, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto

“Bad breath could be caused by inadequate brushing. If you’re not tongue-scraping, there will be bacterial overgrowth. There could be undiagnosed teeth or gum problems. Gargle after drinking milk there are enzymes and sugars in milk, and anything with sugars is going to ferment and smell. I recommend coriander or swishing probiotics around in the mouth. Open up a capsule. They are also sold as powder for the mouth. Or swish around sea salt and baking soda.

SUSHMA SHAH, naturopath, Toronto

“Halitosis can come from local issues – decay, infection, poor oral hygiene – or from systemic issues. Inflammatory disease causes acidity, as does an acidic diet full of animal products, including dairy these exacerbate halitosis. A whole food, plant-based diet and a cleanup of the local mouth issues will cause a drastic change. Rinsing with a probiotic will get rid of some unhealthy microbes. Cut caffeine, alcohol and tobacco. We also use essential oils such as peppermint and red thyme, but consult a practitioner before putting these in your mouth.”

MICHAEL SCHECTER, DDS, biological dentist, Toronto

“There are two causes of bad breath – the foods you eat or bacteria in your dental plaque, particularly those that live below your gum line. Acidity is a primary concern in dental caries and cavities, but not in bad breath or periodontal disease. [The bacteria that cause bad breath] don’t use sugars or live in an acidic environment. There is some evidence that probiotics can be effective.”

DENNIS CVITKOVITCH, director, Dental Research Institute, Canada Research Chair in Biofilm Physiology and Genetics, U of T

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