Dental Health

New Bad Breath Research Unravels the Secrets of Halitosis and Potential Treatments


Feb 22 39719

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be an embarrassing and socially isolating issue. However, the key to fresher breath may not simply be achieved by brushing and flossing more; scientists believe that understanding the complex ecosystem of bacteria in your mouth could help produce different treatments and outcomes. Recent research from Japan explores the world of oral microbiology more closely, uncovering a different cause of bad breath and hinting at potentially game-changing treatments.

The Bad Breath Culprit: Streptococcus Gordonii

Streptococcus gordonii is a common resident of the oral cavity. While generally considered benign, researchers from Osaka University discovered its surprising ability to influence halitosis. It does so by activating another bacterial species, Fusobacterium nucleatum, to produce large quantities of methyl mercaptan, a potent compound with a pungent, sulfurous odor. This explains why bad breath often worsens after eating foods rich in sulfur, like garlic or onions, because they provide fuel for methyl mercaptan production.

Beyond Bad Breath: The Link to Gum Disease

Beyond self-consciousness and socially awkward encounters when bad breath is present, Fusobacterium nucleatum is also known to be a major player in the development of periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the gums and bone supporting the teeth. 

As the researchers explained, “In recent years, there has been growing interest in the collective properties of oral polymicrobial communities, regarded as an important factor for the development of oral diseases such as periodontitis and dental caries. These properties may be shaped by physical and chemical interactions among community participants including streptococci and actinomycetes, which are nonpathogenic commensals. In particular, a subset of oral streptococci has been shown to engage in interspecies communications with oral pathogens, such as the provision of attachment sites through coaggregation-mediated adhesion and exchange of diffusible signaling molecules termed autoinducers (AIs) via quorum sensing (QS). Furthermore, studies recently conducted have reported that streptococcal metabolites, such as lactate, ornithine, and para-aminobenzoic acid, have a major impact on oral community properties, resulting in an increased risk of periodontitis.” 

Academic semantics aside, all of this data suggests that disrupting the interaction between Streptococcus gordonii and Fusobacterium nucleatum could not only combat bad breath but also hold new promise in preventing gum disease.

The Future of Oral Health

The recent research opens exciting avenues for innovative approaches to oral health.

  • Targeted therapies: Developing drugs or probiotics that specifically target the interaction between Streptococcus gordonii and Fusobacterium nucleatum, effectively silencing the bad breath orchestra.
  • Personalized medicine: Identifying individuals with high levels of these bacteria to offer preventive strategies and early intervention for bad breath and gum disease.
  • Improved oral hygiene products: Enhance toothpastes, mouthwashes, and flosses with ingredients that disrupt the bacterial communication or inhibit the production of methyl mercaptan.

But what can you do today to combat bad breath? While waiting for these futuristic solutions to materialize and become incorporated into standard dental practices, here are some practical tips.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene: Brush twice daily, floss regularly, and don’t forget your tongue where bacteria love to hide.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings: Your dentist can identify and address underlying issues that contribute to bad breath.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps flush out food debris and bacteria that contribute to bad breath.
  • Avoid certain foods and drinks: Onions, garlic, coffee, and alcohol can worsen bad breath. While they do also promote health benefits, moderation is key if the goal is to prevent outbreaks of halitosis. Consider increasing your intake of water, fruits, and vegetables as substitutes. 
  • Use mouthwash strategically: Choose a mouthwash containing ingredients like chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium chloride that can temporarily reduce bacteria levels.
  • Consider lifestyle changes: Smoking and stress can contribute to bad breath. Seek ways to manage stress and quit smoking for overall health benefits.

Bad breath is a symptom, not a disease. Understanding the science behind it empowers you to take proactive steps toward attaining fresher breath and healthier gums. As research continues to unravel the secrets of our oral microbiome, exciting possibilities lie ahead for personalized and effective solutions to keep our smiles bright and our breath fresh.

Of course, the best first step is to schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss the issue, uncover potential treatment options, and ensure that no serious problems exist. If you’re an existing patient of the Blende Dental Group, schedule a visit today. If you’re interested in becoming a patient, book a consultation with our team.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

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