Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Clara from Hamilton. Clara Wonders, “Why does your breath smell bad in the morning even though you brushed them the night before?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Clara!
It goes by many names: "kitty breath," "puppy breath," "dragon breath," and even "morning mouth stink." No matter what you call it, most people suffer from morning breath at one time or another.
Certain foods, such as garlic, onions, meat, fish, and cheese, are known to cause bad breath. Medical conditions, such as obesity, and lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, are known causes of bad breath, too.
Even if you have a healthy lifestyle and avoid halitosis-causing foods, you may notice that sometimes you wake up with stinky breath in the morning even if you brushed your teeth the night before. This phenomenon is commonly called “morning breath." Morning breath is not uncommon, and there are a few reasons you wake up feeling not-so-fresh.
If your doctor has ever prescribed an antibiotic for you, then you've probably heard of bacteria. Some bacteria, called “pathogenic bacteria," can make us very sick. These are the types of bacteria we fight with medicine.
Other bacteria, however, are good bacteria and necessary for our survival. These bacteria are permanent residents in different parts of our bodies. They help us digest food and protect us from bad bacteria. Good bacteria can be found in our intestines, on our skin, and in our mouth.
Oral bacteria are one of the causes of morning breath. The helpful bacteria that live in our saliva and mouth feed off food particles trapped between our cheeks, teeth, and gums. At night, bacteria are trapped in our mouth. As the bacteria feed, they produce a gas. They also cause the food particles to release a stinky odor as they decompose.
Another factor that contributes to morning breath is dry mouth. As you sleep, saliva production slows. This creates an environment that allows bacteria to multiply. More bacteria in your mouth means more bacteria snacking on food particles, and as you now know, that means more stinky mouth gas as the food particles decompose.
If you were to light a scented candle in a small, enclosed room, the scent would be much more intense than if you lit the same candle in a room with a big, open window. Bad breath works in a similar way.
A mouth is a wonderful place for bacteria to call home. Your mouth remains closed for most of the time you are asleep each night. Just like the scented candle, if the gas cannot escape, the odor builds up. When your alarm clock goes off, it's time to reach for your toothbrush!
If you suffer from halitosis, don't feel bad; it's certainly not a new problem. Mention of bad breath has been found in records dating as far back as 1550 B.C. The ancient Romans used a mouthwash made of wine and herbs to help combat the problem. The Persians chomped on sprigs of parsley. This method is still used today, which is why some restaurants serve a little piece of parsley with meals.
Today, we have more effective ways of fighting halitosis. These tools include toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, and breath mints. Even though the best brushers and flossers can't completely rid their mouths of bacteria, practicing good oral hygiene reduces the chances of waking up to a stinky surprise. It is also the best way to keep your mouth healthy and happy for years to come — and that's something to smile about.