June 10, 2006
BehindTheMedspeak: Bad breath and tongue cleansing
There are seemingly infinitely many devices, techniques and substances purported to clean your tongue and eliminate or at least mitigate bad breath.
The fact there are so many means none of them are much good.
Just as good money drives out bad, one good medical solution eliminates all the other pretenders and wanna-be's.
Consider for a moment the hundreds of remedies for hiccups — none of which work with the same certainty removing an inflamed appendix will cure appendicitis.
But I digress.
The source of bad breath is indeed, in most cases, the tongue.
There's little doubt of that.
The problem is that the area from which the foul smells emanate is at the very base of the tongue, where thick mucus accumulates to harbor the odor-causing bacteria.
You can't get at that area because approaching it with a foreign body like a scraper or cleaning tool triggers your gag reflex, if you're healthy.
It's a protective mechanism from deep time to prevent your inhaling or aspirating something potentially dangerous or harmful.
The tongue scrapers sold as panaceas will definitely clean the visible area of your tongue, but that's not where the problem is.
Sure, your tongue will look all nice and pink afterward but it's purely cosmetic.
Not that cosmetic improvement is to be scoffed at.
For the purpose of such tongue lifts I recommend the Oolitt tongue scraper (above and below).
It's cheap ($1.40 here), effective and easy and comfortable to use.
Note that you're supposed to employ it prior to brushing your teeth rather than after: I've been using this device for many years but the wrong way — after brushing — until I carefully read the instructions on the package insert last night, to wit: "Use twice daily before brushing teeth."
You can get at the unreachable area at your tongue base and clean it up, by the way.
And you don't have to spend a zillion dollars to do so.
The active ingredient in every single bad breath treatment program is hydrogen peroxide.
Simple, cheap hydrogen peroxide, in the brown plastic bottle that's available at grocery stores, drug stores, 7-Eleven, everywhere, for 69 cents or so a bottle.
Buy a bottle next time you're at the store, then follow these steps:
1) In the morning, before you brush your teeth, take a swig of the hydrogen peroxide — but don't swallow it.*
2) Tip your head back with your mouth open so that the stuff pools at the base of your throat.
3) Do this in a quiet place and if you listen carefully you'll hear faint fizzing from inside your mouth that sounds like soda (I pretend those are the cries of the dying bacteria).
4) Keep your head back like that for 15 seconds or so, then spit the stuff out.
Within two weeks your breath will be fresher — or I will refund (cheerfully, as always) every penny you paid for your peroxide.
And you can take that to the bank.
*Don't worry if you swallow it — it's not toxic and won't make you sick.
I'm not saying you should drink the whole bottle, mind you.
June 10, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink
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You can get 16 oz of perioxide at Walgrens for 3 for a dollar if wou wait for the peroxide to be on sale.
Posted by: rodney | Jun 10, 2006 6:36:43 PM
This is an amazingly timely post for me. Being a fanatical tooth/tongue brusher and flosser anyway, after having had a wretched sinus infection a while back, I took to brushing my tongue, with toothpaste, just like my teeth, then rinsing out with industrial strength, membrane-searing mint mouthwash. I mean brushing hard, like I'm scrubbing the crud off a Weber grill, and supressing the desire to puke just long enough to hit the hind tongue area. Well. Whatever piddly little bad taste I'd had in my mouth upon waking in the mornings was nothing compared to the elephant dung/sock breath/cat-crept-in-crapped-and-crept-out taste I then developed. Bleech. And instead of the regular kind of velvety feel of a normal old tongue, it feels like a piece of hairy, bristly old burlap. More bleech.
So, all this egregiously unnecessary but vivid information is to say, maybe OVER-brushing your tongue, if you feel somehow compelled to do such a thing, can also cause, if not bad breath, then a horrible taste in the mouth. My theory is that I've disrupted the normal disposition of my taste buds and they don't know what to do now, so they're firing off the entire repertoire of their taste input which I'm experiencing as general awfulness. By leaving the tongue completely alone for the past two days, I'm pleased to report, things are calming down.
I'm going to try the tongue scraper and peroxide next and hope I can fool my tongue into thinking that this is just SOP and nothing to get its pants (buds) in a wad over.
Posted by: Flutist | Jun 10, 2006 2:43:35 PM
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