Dr. Katz, who is on a nationwide “bad breath mission tour” gets down to the basics of bad breath with Vicky Hallett of Read Express.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING for someone to kiss, try the streets of Columbus, Ohio. That’s what dentist-bacteriologist Harold Katz says, anyway. Armed with a device called a Halimeter, the author of “The Bad Breath Bible” is touring the nation to give out gold stars or break the news that, yes, that odor is completely offensive. The current standings have the Midwestern city as the country’s fresh-breath front-runner. To prepare our city for his impending arrival (although the date isn’t scheduled yet), Katz has some tips on making mouths more fragrant.
» EXPRESS: Are people aware of how stinky their breath is?
» KATZ: No, people don’t know they have bad breath. Their brains get used to their odors.
» EXPRESS: So, what causes bad breath?
» KATZ: A dry mouth is the number one cause. People don’t drink enough water to replenish their saliva, and many mouthwashes are full of alcohol, which just dries mouths out more. The teeth have very little to do with it — it comes from bacteria in the back of the throat. The odor you smell in bad breath comes from anaerobic sulphur-producing bacteria, so it stays away from oxygen.
» EXPRESS: But can’t you scrape your tongue?
» KATZ: That does help somewhat, but people who use traditional toothpaste to do it are making their tongues dry, and you don’t want to keep the tongue dry.
» EXPRESS: Garlic can impact breath, but are any foods surprising?
» KATZ: We recommend that if you go to a party that you look for things that are juicy, like fruits. Dairy foods are a big problem because they contain proteins that can break down and smell.
» EXPRESS: Do breath mints help?
» KATZ: Not much, especially if it contains sugar. The way you grow bacteria in a lab is to give it sugar.
» EXPRESS: I hear you’ve worked with celebrities. Any good stories?
» KATZ: I can’t name names, but I treated a singer who had a lounge act. The people at the front tables would go to the back of the room. Also, smokers and drinkers end up with bad breath, so actors have major issues with kissing scenes.
» EXPRESS: How do you politely tell someone they have foul breath?
» KATZ: We have a tell-a-friend program [on the Web site Therabreath.com]. They’ll get an e-mail explaining what bad breath is all about. We’re not here to insult them.
» EXPRESS: Can bad breath be a sign of something more than dry mouth?
» KATZ: Quite often we talk about this as a funny thing, but there’s a strong link to illness when you have those high levels of sulphur. It means you’re susceptible to gum disease. Once gums are puffy and bleeding, that’s a chronic infection. There’s a higher incidence of heart attacks and strokes. Signs that things are out of balance could lead to serious consequences.
» EXPRESS: Any other breath-freshening tips for our readers?
» KATZ: Drinking a six-pack of beer is not the same as drinking water. And we highly recommend flossing. It’s one of these things people avoid, but in those crevices is where the bacteria are hiding from oxygen. Also, certain medications — anti-histamines, anti-depressants — can make the mouth dry. So, people who never had bad breath might get it with a new prescription.
» EXPRESS: I know you haven’t tested D.C. breath yet, but any thoughts on how politicians will do?
» KATZ: People who talk a lot use up their saliva, and their breath starts to become offensive. So, if they want to get votes, they should drink plenty of water on the campaign trail.