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Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Bad Breath?

  • Chris Woolston
  • Posted March 11, 2013

Stand in enough lines at the grocery store or ride in enough crowded buses, and you're bound to catch a whiff of breath that's strong enough to peel paint. And, if you're honest, you'd have to admit there have been times when your own breath has been less than rosy. Bad breath -- also known as halitosis -- isn't a trivial problem. Severe cases can strain relationships and sap confidence. Fortunately, even the most foul breath can be tamed. How much do you know about bad breath? Take this short quiz to find out.

1. According to Scientific American, what's the leading cause of lingering bad breath?

a. Smelly foods

b. Bacteria in the mouth

c. Gum disease

d. Rotting teeth

2. Unpleasant breath odors often come from places other than the mouth, such as the stomach.

True

False

3. If your breath ever turned really horrible, you could probably taste it or smell it.

True

False

4. Brushing your teeth is the single most important thing you can do to avoid bad breath.

True

False

5. People with dry mouths are especially likely to have bad breath.

True

False

6. Which of these is the LEAST effective way to freshen chronically bad breath?

a. Sucking on breath mints

b. Using antiseptic mouthwash

c. Flossing

d. Eating regular meals, including a good breakfast.

7. Garlic is so strong it can show up on your breath after you rub it on the soles of your feet.

True

False

Your Results

1. According to Scientific American, what's the leading cause of lingering bad breath?

The correct answer is: b. Bacteria in the mouth

Like other types of body odor -- for example, the stench of sweaty feet or unwashed armpits --long-term bad breath is usually the handiwork of bacteria. Germs in the mouth feast on bits of food, mucus, and other bits of debris that build up in the mouth. As reported in Scientific American, well-fed bacteria can release some truly nose-curdling substances, including methyl mercaptan, the compound that gives feces its smell, and cadaverine, the telltale aroma of dead bodies. Gum disease, however, is also linked to bad breath.

2. Unpleasant breath odors often come from places other than the mouth, such as the stomach.

The correct answer is: False

According to Scientific American, 85 to 90 percent of unpleasant breath odors come from the mouth. The next most common sources are the nose and the tonsils. Keep this in mind if you ever run across a product that promises to treat the "internal" source of bad breath.

3. If your breath ever turned really horrible, you could probably taste it or smell it.

The correct answer is: False

People are surprisingly inept at gauging their own breath. If you're worried about your breath -- or even if you aren't -- consider asking someone close to you for an honest opinion.

4. Brushing your teeth is the single most important thing you can do to avoid bad breath.

The correct answer is: False

Brushing and flossing your teeth are crucial steps for a clean, healthy mouth. And, to some extent, clean teeth promote fresh breath. But most of the bacteria that cause bad breath make their living on the back of the tongue, not the teeth. You can fight back by cleaning the back of your tongue every day with a toothbrush or a plastic tongue scraper. For extra protection, rinse your mouth with an mouthwash that doesn't contain alcohol right before bedtime.

5. People with dry mouths are especially likely to have bad breath.

The correct answer is: True

Saliva rinses the mouth. If your mouth is too dry, food and other debris can pile up, providing a feast for odor-causing bacteria. Common causes of dry mouth include stress, smoking, fasting, lack of fluids, and prescription medications. If your mouth is constantly dry, ask your doctor or dentist for advice.

6. Which of these is the LEAST effective way to freshen chronically bad breath?

The correct answer is: a. Sucking on breath mints

Mints can make your mouth feel fresh, but they won't improve your breath for more than a few minutes. These other steps address the root of the problem: Antiseptic mouthwash can kill odor-causing bacteria, flossing removes bits of food between the teeth, and regular meals (including a good breakfast) help keep saliva flowing.

7. Garlic is so strong it can show up on your breath after you rub it on the soles of your feet.

The correct answer is: True

If you're the type who would rather eat garlic than rub it on your feet, the effect is even stronger. According to a report from the Academy of General Dentistry, strong-smelling foods such as garlic, onions, and coffee can linger on the breath for as long as 72 hours.

References

American Dental Association. Bad breath (halitosis). 2011.

Academy of General Dentistry. What is halitosis?

Rosenberg, M. The science of bad breath. Scientific American. April 2002. 72-79.

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