What does the history and science of your fetid breath

In the “Science of love”, the Roman poet Ovid gives some advice in love. To attract a man, he writes, seductive woman needs to learn to dance, to hide their bodily flaws and not laugh if she has black teeth. But most importantly, it should not smell bad.

Don’t talk on an empty stomach, if the spirit of his mouth bad,
And try to keep further from face.

The Council is questionable, but the essence of the problem is described accurately. In the ancient world for centuries, people have experimented with the so-called drug from unpleasant mouth odor. Even today, scientists are perplexed, trying to understand what causes foul breath. And it continues to poison our lives, spoils the intimate moments and haunts us like the stinking sulphurous cloud.

Why is this attack so pushy? To answer this question, we need to go back in time 2,000 years ago. But ancient history will give more answers on this social neurosis than about the scientific reasons behind this ailment.

Our attempts to fight unpleasant mouth odor is a specimen of human ingenuity. For example, the ancient Egyptians 3, 000 years ago invented something like peppermint to freshen breath. They prepared a decoction of herbs and spices (frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon were popular flavors), and then mixed it with honey and made candy that you can chew or suck. In the 15th century the Chinese invented the first toothbrush made of pig bristles, which they shaved the pigs neck. More than 5,000 years ago the Babylonians were trying to get rid of unpleasant smell from the mouth with the help of twigs, with which they clean their teeth.

The researchers of misleading the Talmud that the Torah condemned halitosis, calling it a serious disease. This means that fetid breath was giving the wife reason to seek divorce, and priests could stop to perform their duties. Fortunately, the Talmud offers some remedies for getting rid of this trouble, for example, rinse your mouth with a mixture of oil and water, or to chew the resin from the rubber tree. This resin, which was later discovered anti-bacterial properties, is still used in Greece and Turkey as chewing gum.

In the “Natural history” of Pliny the Elder, written some years before the death of this Roman philosopher, in the eruption of Vesuvius, gives the following advice: “to freshen breath, it is recommended to brush your teeth with ashes from burnt mouse dung and honey.” Pliny also reported that brushing the teeth with a needle of a porcupine is helpful, but the feather of a vulture spoils the breath. Of course, in many cases, these funds helped to temporarily relieve bad breath, but none of them didn’t get rid of him forever.

Literary sources from around the world confirm that bad breath has long been considered the enemy of a romantic relationship. In the monument of Persian literature of the 10th-century “Shahnameh” by Ferdowsi, the poet showed how indestructible the fetid breath has drastically changed the course of history. There is a story about how the king Darab sends his young wife Nahid back to his native Macedonia because of its unbearable smell from the mouth. At this point she was already pregnant with boy, what is not known nor her husband, nor the father the king Filkus or herself.

The son grew up and became Iskander, better known under the name of Alexander the great. It turns out that Alexander was not a foreigner, and the legitimate king of the Persian blood, entitled to the throne.

In the “Canterbury tales” Geoffrey Chaucer’s “fun lover” Absalom, preparing for a kiss, freshens breath cardamom and liquorice. (Unfortunately, the object of his attention substitutes not lips, and ass.) In Shakespeare, Cleopatra, describing the horrors of Rome, complains about the “stinking breath of the Romans from rough food.” In the play “Much ADO about nothing” Benedict thinks, “If her breath were as poisonous as her speech about her would be nothing living, she would have poisoned everything and everyone, until the Polar star”.

The elegant Jane Austen such a topic like bad breath has no place. But in his private correspondence Austin was more explicit. In a letter to her sister Cassandra she once complained about neighbors: “I was kind to them in that measure in what it allowed me bad breath”.

Of course, people in the past knew about this spoiling the mood of adversity and were looking for ways to counter it. But the official medical diagnosis of bad breath was only at the beginning of the 20th century. Then this ailment has an official name — halitosis, mostly thanks to clever advertising from the company called Listerine.

In the 1880’s, Listerine was not just a mouthwash. It was a universal antispetic, which is sold under the brand name products and as a surgical disinfectant and as a deodorant, and as a cleanser for the floor. In advertising of the time mentioned that with the help of Listerine can cure a variety of diseases, from dysentery to gonorrhea. The sellers assured the buyers that is enough “with the power to RUB Listerine into the hair and pesky dandruff, quickly disappear”.

But Listerine needed their own trading niche. So in 1923 the heir of the company Gerard Barnes Lambert (Gerard Barnes Lambert) with his younger brother Marion began to think about what of the many purposes Listerine can best to use for sales. Gerard later recalled in his autobiography that he asked the pharmacist from the company about the unpleasant mouth odor. “He’s a minute left and then returned with a large scrapbook full of newspaper clippings. He sat down in the chair, and I stood back, looking him over the shoulder. He started flipping through this huge album.”

“Here, Gerard. In this clipping from the British medical journal Lancet States that in the case of halitosis…” I interrupted him: “What is halitosis?” “Oh, — he said — is the medical term meaning bad breath”.


“The pharmacist did not understand. I shoved the poor man out the door. So, I thought. There is something to be grasped”.

And senior Lambert seized. He operated this term, exposing it as a disgusting and widespread disease, which destroys love, business and interferes with the recognition in the society. Fortunately, this disease can be easily and effectively cured with the help, of course, Listerine. Today this product is known as an effective tool in the fight against germs that cause halitosis.

During the campaign against halitosis over time, new trends appeared. At the beginning of the 20th century, people learned about germs and how they spread (or fear them). “People have the idea of the germs, — writes the historian at Waseda University in Tokyo, Julian Sivulka (Juliann Sivulka), studying American ads of the 20th century. Many goods began to say that they are good for health, say, paper cups and napkins, Kleenex, since there are no germs”.

In addition, the expansion of freedom in society in that era allowed us to discuss topics that previously avoided because they were under the social ban. “Advertising started to talk about things which before were silent, for example, the functions of the body, says Sivulka. — In the Victorian era it was taboo. View stocking shocked about fungal diseases of the foot and acne to say it was not accepted”. But now advertisers are boldly talking about these diseases and their treatment, resorting to the strategy of attracting attention, which were widely used by the yellow press.

Since 1930-ies, the company Listerine produced the ads, which showed how girls with unpleasant mouth odor remained old maids, men who have seemingly has it all, rejected the society, and mothers turned their children. In the 1950s Listerine even started to publish comics, demonstrating how its products are changing in the lives of football stars and girls from support groups. The campaign has been so successful that Lambert, who had many achievements in various fields, from business to art, complained: “On my tombstone write that here lies the father of halitosis”.

Why arranged Listerine campaign against halitosis found such a response? Lambert used in his primitive interests need to be recognized and accepted in society, and fear of being rejected. This fear is alive and well today among those who suffer from unpleasant mouth odor, says F. Michael Eggert (F. Michael Eggert) founded at the University of Alberta clinic for the study of halitosis. “Man is a social animal, and he is very sensitive to signals emanating from other people,” he says knowingly, as many of his patients talk about the reactions of others on fetid breath.

“People are afraid to communicate in everyday life, he adds. — If someone for some reason recoiled from you, say, work, you start to think that this is because of the bad smell.”

What are the true reasons of an unpleasant smell in the mouth? Scientists only recently succeeded in uncovering this mystery. They found that while some well-known products such as sardines, onions, and coffee, real change comes from us the smell, in the end, blame not the food. This is the work of invisible microscopic bacteria that are found around the tongue and gums and feed on the remains of eaten food, nasal mucus, and even tissues of the mouth.

The identification of these bacteria is the first step to understanding how to cope with them. About this said head of the Department of biology of the oral cavity of the dental faculty of the University of California in Los Angeles Wenyuan Shi (Shi Wenyuan). According to Shi, bad breath is most often created by those types of bacteria that produce foul-smelling gases, especially sulfur content, which most people hates. (For reference gases containing sulfur smell like rotten eggs.)

Saliva is a natural tool of the body by which the man removes bacteria and foul-smelling waste products of the mouth. This means that when the mouth is dry, it produces an unpleasant smell. According to Shea, push the emergence of stale smell can give too long monologues, lectures, mouth breathing, Smoking and even some medications. But even if you mouth is kept moist, it does not guarantee you a fresh breath.

Unfortunately, all the tools that we use against these nasty bacteria, such as brushes, dental floss, mouthwash only mask their action, or is temporarily kept under control. In other words, when we day by day trying to get rid of bacteria, it’s like a Sisyphean task, because the next morning the bacteria will come back and go on the offensive with renewed vigor. Says Shea, “it’s a constant battle”.

“The problem of hygiene that it is only a short-term solution to the problem, unable to have a lasting effect, he explains. — No matter how much we brush his teeth or rinse your mouth the moment you Wake up every morning think of bacteria in the oral cavity even more. Of course, mouthwash, brushes, cleaning of the language is better than nothing, but the most that they can do is to remove the top layer, after which the bacteria will easily grow again.”

It should be noted that bad breath is not always caused by bacteria. Sometimes fetid breath has nothing to do with the oral cavity, and originates in the stomach. In rare cases, bad breath indicates the presence of serious problems with metabolism types of disease of the liver, notes Eggert. “It’s not always about the teeth or in the oral cavity, he says. — There are many people who have bad breath not related to oral cavity”.

But mention it is possible or not to win over the unpleasant smell from the mouth, which is caused by bacteria, Shih expressed optimism. However, he did not intend to destroy all bacteria in your mouth, as many of them are useful and help to maintain our oral ecosystem.

“Of course, the ultimate solution to the problems associated with science, he says. — Need to cultivate more bacteria that do not have a bad smell, to carry out targeted treatment for getting rid of those bacteria which are the source of the problem. It’s like the weeds you have on your lawn. If you use herbicides of General application, it is possible to damage a good lawn, and the first on the field always returned the weeds. The way out is to create a healthy lawn and to occupy all the niches, and then the weeds will not have the slightest chance to grow again.”

But this fragrant day is still far away, and therefore it is necessary to look truth in the eye. Of course, bad breath makes people disgusted, but in General it is harmless. So if you from time to time not quite smell the roses, remember: you are not alone. Love is not always eternal, but the fetid breath could very well be.