Dragon Breath

Today was one of those occasions that I got reminded that English is not my first language. I have a senior patient who came in, complaining that she has “dragon breath”.

• ”What do you have?” Me puzzled

• “You know, I have dragon breath and it is terrible”

• “Dragon breath”? Me with my eyes wide open, thinking, so burning breath or fire comes out of your mouth!

• “ Come on Dr. Z, when you wake up in the morning and you have a terrible bad breath”

You can imagine the extent of my embarrassment. It was also hard, not to laugh at that moment. After the visit I thought, this will be a good topic for my next blog post. Medical professionals call bad breath, halitosis. It can happen during the day and it is not specific to morning only. The reality is, it is embarrassing to hear that you have bad breath. However, it is even worse, if you don’t know that you have bad breath.

Good news: You can fix it most of the time.

So Let’s start!

Experts believe, the best way to know if you have a malodorous mouth, is to ask someone you trust. Some people suggest smelling the floss (as much as it sounds disgusting, it can be helpful).

The first thing that comes to mind is food sources like onion and garlic.
However, the main cause of bad breath is the bacteria that live in your mouth. These bacteria feed on the food trapped between your teeth, &/or on your gum &/or on your tongue. The by-product of their food ingestion is foul smelling gases like sulfides. The dental plaque is the other source of food for these bacteria.
Remember, the best place to start investigating is your mouth: Gum disease, cavities, cracked filling, food trapped in tonsils, dirty tongue, dry mouth, etc. If you can’t find anything in your mouth, then think of internal conditions: diabetes, liver disease, respiratory tract infections, heartburn, H.pylori and post nasal drip.

By now I hope you are thinking, why is it worse in the morning. This is because you breathe through your mouth at night quite often. This will dry your mouth. Well, guess what! Dry mouth lacks oxygen and encourages anaerobe bacteria (bacteria that die with oxygen), to have more food and produce more gas. Remember your saliva is anti-bacterial in nature and washes away food. Lastly, If you are on high protein, low carb diet for weight loss, you will fit in those skinny jeans soon. However, less than 100 grams of carbohydrate a day means, you will use fats as fuel for your body . The by-product of fat-burn is ketone, which is known to produce horrible smelling breath.

NOT A BIG DEAL, LET’S HAVE MINT &/OR GUM You shouldn’t rely on mint or gum. It is alright to use them as a quick fix occasionally. Think about the amount of sugar you are feeding the bacteria in your mouth with each gum/mint. Remember sugar free means sweetener with the same effect. Also, we all know that gum is not anti-bacterial so it cannot address the root cause.

• Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day (washing your tongue can make all the difference)
• Drink plenty of water. Keep your saliva dilute and flowing.
• Rinse your mouth with water after eating and drinking
• Every morning rinse your mouth with cinnamon and lemon water
• Drink green tea during the day. It has anti-bacterial properties
• Don’t eat too much garlic and onion
• Meat is hard to digest and gets trapped between your teeth. It is also, one of the favourite foods for your mouth bacteria
• Eat fruits high in Vitamin C (oranges, melone). The bacteria in your mouth hate Vitamin C
• Eat foods pack in fibre to produce more saliva. (celery)
• Quit smoking, it can cause plaque build up and dry mouth
• Visit your denstis regularly
• Do not forget your dental cleaning twice a year
• Do not ever forget flossing
• Check side effect of the medication you are taking. Anything that can cause dry mouth, like antihistamine, can make the smell worse
• Use neem toothpaste if you can

I hope this blog post helps you to avoid having "dragon Breath" ever again !
Dr. Z
Picture taken from: http://www.personal.psu.edu/afr3/blogs/SIOW/2011/12/why-does-morning-breath-smell-so-bad.html

Author resumes no liability for incorrect information or any action reader decides to take based on the information on this blog post. This blog post is only author’s personal input on the topic and by no means entails any medical advice.