Welcome to Ask Doctor Zac, a weekly column from news.com.au. This week, Dr Zac Turner talks about bad-smelling breath.
Question: Hi Dr Zac, my best friend is a dud when it comes to dating and I think I know the reason why: his breath stinks like hell. It’s not bad, as in bad smelling coffee-breath, it’s bad – as in a pile of festering baby nappies mixed with the body of rotting corpse – all living underneath his tongue, bad!
He’s a pretty sensitive guy so I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Can you tell me what causes bad breath and how to solve it so I can discreetly help him out? – Nelson, 27, Perth
Answer: We’ve all been there before. Someone has you cornered, perhaps even in a medical consulting chair, and despite their yapping away all you can think about is their awful breath. It stinks, it’s repulsive and what’s worse is the idea of having to tell them their breath stinks!
There have been multiple moments in my early life when I was a graduate doctor, looking for wisdom and expertise from senior doctors. A few times these expert doctors would give me their time, but unfortunately I couldn’t focus during the meetings because they had awful breath. I had a near-death experience holding in my breath secretively.
Although Oxford describes ‘medicine’ as the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease – I believe it should also incorporate ‘promotion’ and making the knowledge I am giving easy to take in (i.e. – making sure you can easily communicate to your patients, including having fresh breath and a neat presentation). I personally like to chew gum or use mouthwash during the day to make the difference for my patients trying to seek advice.
Bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis, is usually caused by a problem originating in the mouth. It can be, however, a sign of a more serious condition such as diabetic ketoacidosis, kidney failure, or an infection.
I’m going to assume your friend isn’t suffering from kidney failure or infection, and focus on his mouth. I’ll run you through a checklist of what causes bad breath, and then fill you in on how to get his breath back to smelling fresh!
Here is Dr Zac’s Bad…