Canker Sores are more likely to cause Halitosis than Stomach Ulcers

The science of halitosis is constantly evolving. Things that were once considered the main causes of bad breath have often fallen by the wayside, as research has proven them to have little or no connection to oral odor. Consider this situation: You have two kinds of ulcers – aphthous ulcers (also known as canker sores) and a stomach ulcer. Which one is causing your bad breath?

It’s tempting to immediately choose the stomach ulcer, and for many years, oral health experts did just that. They knew that most halitosis comes from odor-causing bacteria (which is true), so they assumed that bad breath came from the stomach and digestive tract.

Today, though, we know that this simply isn’t true. In fact, a new study published in the Journal of Breath Research confirms as much.

Stomach ulcers hurt (but don’t stink)

Scientists from three different health centers in the Netherlands set out to see whether the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers – a nasty little beast called Heliobacter pylori – can also emit enough volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) to make breath smell bad.

It can’t.

As the Dutch team noted, “the concentrations of the VSCs in stomach air were in nearly all cases below the thresholds of objectionability of the various VSCs, indicating that halitosis does not originate in the stomach.” Hence, stomach ulcers can’t cause oral odor.

“Halitosis,” the authors added, “nearly always originates within the oral cavity and seldom or never within the stomach.”

This means that ulcers of the mouth are far more likely to be causing your halitosis, even if you also have stomach ulcers. Research has backed this up, too: Scientists have repeatedly shown that the microbes that cause canker sores emit huge amounts of VSCs, leaving gums, cheeks and tongue both smelly and in agony.

What to do about canker sores

So, what can you do about ulcers and bad breath? If you have the gastric kind, see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. But if your ulcers are oral (i.e. canker sores), an alcohol-free mouthwash and a good oral care probiotics regimen should do nicely.

Say you’ve just ordered these specialty breath fresheners online but have a few days until they arrive at your doorstep. You may want a few at-home remedies to tide you over.

The Mayo Clinic recommends rinsing your mouth with a teaspoon of baking soda mixed into half a cup of warm water. This can help temporarily soothe the aches caused by canker sores. Alternatively, you can dab a little milk of magnesia on the sores, or simply avoid spicy foods and apply ice to the aphthous ulcers throughout the day.


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