Why do almonds get stale


- Bad breath or halitosis is a common medical problem that is mostly unrecognized by those affected and has a highly socially disadvantageous effect. In addition to true halitosis, the constant fear of smelling bad out of the mouth - halitophobia - can seriously reduce the quality of life.

- Recently, researchers have been analyzing halitosis qualitatively and quantitatively. They discovered numerous types of bacteria in the oral cavity that excrete foul-smelling metabolic products.

- Trading in funds for fresh breath is a lucrative business. Huge sums of money are spent on mouthwash and mint sweets - usually without any permanent improvement.

Exaggerated fear of bad breath

Ruby - a fictional patient composed of several real cases - always dresses impeccably and looks particularly well-groomed. As a successful business woman, she seems to have everything under control - if it weren't for this one problem. Thirty years ago a school friend told her that her mouth smelled bad. Since then, Ruby has lived in constant fear of her breath. She always keeps her distance from customers and chews gum all the time. She goes to the dentist regularly, brushes her teeth at least four times a day, cleans the tongue, uses dental floss and gargles with antiseptic mouthwash. She avoids kissing her husband on the mouth and is careful not to get too close to other people. Outside, Ruby tries to stand against the wind when talking. She is so embarrassed about the supposed bad breath that she doesn't talk to anyone about it.

Finally Ruby came to our clinic. "I feel like I'm leading a successful life, with the exception of this terrible problem," she told us tearfully. However, when we tested her breath, with the best will in the world, we couldn't find any bad breath. Even at Ruby's later appointments, there wasn't a bad smell to be heard: her breathing was just unremarkable.
Ruby, like millions of others, suffers from halitophobia, the pathological fear of smelling bad out of the mouth. In a 1997 study in Alberta, Canada, Murray B. Stein, an expert on social issues at the University of California at San Diego, found that 15.8 percent of 1206 participants were "very worried" about their breathing. 2.8 percent had already consulted an expert for this reason, and 2.7 percent stated that their concern had some or a major impact on their lives. One percent of the participants admitted that they hadn't gone to a party out of fear because of their bad breath. Obviously, halitophobia restricts social activities and leads to a state of self-imposed loneliness.

Those affected I interviewed include lawyers, teachers, judges, actors, a doctor, a senior politician, and even someone who became a dentist in the hope that it would solve his "problem".

Halitophobes hide their concern. A colleague once tried to convince me that there was actually no such thing as halitophobia. "What are you talking about," his long-time wife blurted out: "I'm such a case myself!"

Halitophobes believe they have good reasons to be afraid. For example, they consider an unpleasant taste in the mouth to be a sign of bad breath, although taste and breath do not have to have anything to do with one another. Some say they inherited a family member's foul odor. And some interpret the behavior of other people - for example, if they accidentally open a window or rub their nose - as a reaction to their bad breath.

Few halitophobes are willing to consider a psychological reason for their fear; but only then does the chance of success of psychotherapy increase. In fact, together with Ilana Eli from Tel Aviv University, we discovered that halitophobes tend to be overly sensitive and compulsive when dealing with other people. Unfortunately, in most cases, they keep trying to find a solution to a problem that doesn't even exist.

Sources of bad breath

Bad breath actually arises mostly in the mouth. The cause is extremely rarely found beyond the tonsils. Contrary to popular belief, the stomach is only a source of bad breath in exceptional cases.

Relatively often, however, the bad breath emanates from your own nose, including its various cavities and sinuses. Sometimes foreign bodies are the cause; if a child suddenly smells strange, the nostrils should be examined.

The stones from the almond hollows

In the hollows of the almonds, stones, so-called tonsillolites, are formed from partially calcified bacteria and all kinds of residues. The tonsillolites themselves smell putrid, but don't necessarily cause bad breath. They are relatively rare: only two to three percent of the population carry these stones around with them. Since they don't usually cause medical problems, many health professionals and dentists have never heard of them. The samples shown come from a single person.

Tips for fresh breath

- Gently clean the back of the tongue with a plastic tongue cleaner. Be careful not to injure your tongue, just wipe off the mucous layer. The gag reflex disappears through habituation.

- Have a good breakfast. A good breakfast cleanses your mouth and stimulates the flow of saliva.

- Be careful not to dry out your mouth. Chewing gum for a few minutes can reduce bad breath. Drink enough.

- Use a mouthwash - preferably just before going to bed. This prevents the growth of microorganisms and the development of bad breath overnight.

- Clean your mouth after eating strong smelling meals with garlic, onion, curry or a drink like coffee. Don't forget the spaces between your teeth, especially after a high-protein diet.

- Clean your teeth and spaces between your teeth as instructed by your dentist.

- Ask an adult family member or good friend how your breath smells. It's the most reliable - and cheapest - way to find out if you have halitosis.

From: Spektrum der Wissenschaft 6/2002, page 70
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This article is contained in Spectrum of Science 6/2002