Good bacteria helps bad breath

Marissa Weinfeld (3 PM Micro) found this article about halitosis and the oral microbiota. Her advice? Add more bacteria. Long time readers of BIO230 may recall my take on this topic from March 2011 (sorry Marissa–All That Has Happened Before Will Happen Again.)

Most people occasionally have bad breath however; about 25 percent of people have chronic bad breath.  Researches have discovered that the gas emitting bacteria on the tongue and below the gum line are responsible for the bad breath but have had a difficult time determining how to get rid of these bacteria responsible for the odor. Solutions to bad breath including mouthwash, brushing and flossing after meals may cause temporary relief but can also cause unpleasant side effects. Evidence from recent research has found that it is more effective to nurture helpful bacteria in the mouth rather than destroying the offending germs and their by-products.

Hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan are found in higher levels in breath of bad breath individuals. These as well as other compounds are waste products released by the bacteria eating particles of food and tissue in our mouth. Gram-negative bacteria that live below the gum line and on the tongue produce more of the bad odors in breath. Mel Rosenberg a microbiology professor at Tel Aviv University and his colleague Nir Sterer recently found that some strains of gram-positive bacteria secrete an enzyme that clips sugar molecules off the proteins found in food, which makes those proteins more digestible for nearby gram-negative organisms. When gram-negatives digest proteins the more odors are emitted.

Current treatments that are said to improve oral ecology are found to make problems worse. A chlorhexidinse rinse was found to temporarily change the taste of food and was also found to cause a tingling or burning sensation on the tongue after a week of use on some users. Another find was that rinses with alcohol could dry out the mouth adding to the odors causing bad breath. It can also wipe out too many of the mouths normal bacteria allowing opportunistic species responsible for gum disease and other infections.

A researcher Rosenberg, developed a two-phase oil-and-water rinse that temporarily reduces bad breath by soaking up some of the oral debris and microbes that tooth brushing, flossing and tongue scraping miss.  Other researchers found that Streptococcus salivarius K12 can fight bad breath. In a study volunteers gargled with chlorhexidine mouthwash and sucked on lozenges laced with K12. A week to two weeks later they had much better breath. At U.C.L.A. a researcher is working mouthwash that contains peptide, which is tailored to selectively kill S.mutans, the bacterium that causes tooth decay. Using this in moderation may help bad breath. Research continues to find the cure for bad breath but for now the best solution seems to be good bacteria.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on May 9, 2013, in gross, Guest Post and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Good bacteria helps bad breath.

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