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You know who you are: cure is here for really stinky breath

mouth February 24, 1997
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Greg Lefevre

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Bad breath can be much more than a temporary embarrassment; it can be a true medical condition, as Paul Hsia will tell you. Hsia had bad breath -- really bad breath, to the point where he said some people would cover their mouth when they were around him.

"People just back off, or step back a little bit," he said.

If you have industrial-strength bad breath, you know who you are. Some 27 million Americans suffer from, or perhaps inflict, bad breath. Their problem is nearly always the same: too much sulfur in the mouth.

Mouthwash isn't enough to wash away the extra sulfur -- Hsia went through gallons of it. And brushing is equally ineffective.


"They're at the end of the line," said Dr. Anthony Dailley, a dentist who opened the Center for Breath Treatment in San Francisco. He checks for the common causes first -- gum disease, sinus infections.

But over time he has found that the worst cases came from chronic dry mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth cannot wash away excess sulfur, and develops that awful rotten-egg smell.

"A good analogy that I use with my patients is that if you go down to the water's edge in a marshy area and the tide's up, typically there is no odor. But when the tide goes and things start to dry out a bit, we all know what it smells like," Dailley said.

St. Louis dentist Dr. Marvin Cohen was the one to discover the sulfur connection. "The cure is there. The help is available. And the people who are so afflicted have to go out and find the people who can provide that help," the halitosis specialist said.

probe display

New bad breath centers are popping up around the United States at the rate of about one a month. Eventually, consumer advisor Christine Dumas of the American Medical Association predicts that the technology used in these specialized centers will be "in every dentist's office in the country."

Such technology includes temperature probes, which Dailley uses to look for infections, and a sulfur "sniffer," which calibrates what his nose has already told him. He treats sulfur-related halitosis by adding a tongue scraper and a special mouthwash solution to the usual routine of brushing and flossing. The new gargle, chlorine dioxide, neutralizes the sulfur.


Dailley's services aren't cheap: he charges $500 for curing industrial-strength bad breath. But, patient Paul Hsia said, "If you think $500 is a lot of money, then you don't have the problem."

For Hsia, it was worth every penny: he doesn't have the problem anymore.


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