Hey friends! I know it has been a while and too long a time to stay without posting on my blog. Some readers contacted me about it, and trust me, I didn’t ignore. I have just been so preoccupied with life after NYSC, and trying to adjust to being a full working-class lady, not able to get away with being lazy for a second as I could during my internship and service year. I am so sorry!!!! PLEASE FORGIVE ME…*inserts eyelashes smiley*
In the past week, I have been thinking of an appropriate topic to give me that welcome-back bang effect. After racking my head, I finally settled for one that bothers me greatly. One that has ended relationships, stirred bullying, made situations awkward for the affected people and hands out low self-esteem like Santa Claus. I’ll just get right into it.
I was in a supermarket in Lagos one very fine Saturday. I was in SS2 then, when my ‘toasting‘ market was in full bloom. I finished shopping and got on the cashier’s queue to make my payments when I heard a voice behind me. It belonged to a cute dude I had ogled at when I entered the supermarket but he looked older so I just distracted myself. As he spoke the words ‘hey dear, can I help carry your basket’, I literally saw the words spelt out and come from his mouth in a thick fog-like manner. I took 2 steps back and tripped over him, making him bend over to help me up saying ‘wow I’m so sorry dear, so so sorry’. Holding my breath, out of my wits, all I could think of was how to physically clamp his lips together to stop him from talking to me. How, in the name of all beautiful things, is it possible for a grown man to exude all these confidence, handsomeness, sexiness and to top it up, MOUTH ODOUR? HOW? HOW??! HOW???! I felt like crying (I think 1 or 2 tears escaped my tear ducts) because I had to hold my breath for longer than normal to avoid entrance of those foul particles into my respiratory system, although some did succeed and that was the most painful. I didn’t reply him to prevent him from opening his buccal cavity one more time; because I didn’t think I would survive it. That experience scarred me (seriously) and that’s why I have chosen to speak about this weapon of biological warfare, Halitosis, popularly known as Bad breath or Mouth Odour.
Back off, brother…
Halitosis is a condition in which a noticeably unpleasant odour is present on exhaled breath. It is commonly caused by bacterial activities stemming bad oral hygiene and less commonly by an underlying disease such as that of the liver. It is a social taboo and can trigger social anxiety and depression. About 80-90% of halitosis is caused but bacteria which may or may not be part of the normal mouth flora. When you eat some types of food and refuse to clean up your mouth, these bacteria feed on these remnants, multiply and begin to produce waste products which comes off as the bad smell you experience when you open your mouth. Some of these waste products include
- Hydrogen sulphide, which gives off the ”rotten egg smell”
- Methyl mercaptan, which gives off the rotten cabage smell. This also found in farts
- Dimethyl sulphide, which also has ‘cabbagey’ undertones
Since these products contain sulphur, it is only logical to avoid sulphur containing foods in excess, especially if you suffer from halitosis. Such foods include garlic, onions, cabbage and proteins. Proteins have a disulphide back-bone, hence it is observed that proteinous foods like eggs, beans, fish and nuts give off untoward smells after eating them, if the mouth isn’t properly cleaned afterwards.
I once had the chance to write on halitosis in an online youth forum, and a lady sent in her experience, which is a real life story:
”I had a male friend once who I friend-zoned successfully because at the time, there was no twitter and it was perfectly ok to have a male individual as a friend and nothing more. I never noticed this guy had a bad case of halitosis because I just assumed he just had something spicy or tangy to eat. After like 3 years, he wanted things to become warmer between us even though I wasn’t that interested. But I figured that since I had known him for a while, I could give it a try. It so happened that we started dating and after our first kiss which became a French one, I felt some sticky ‘something’ in my mouth. I quickly went to his bathroom and tried to smell my breath…it smelt disgusting. I used his mouthwash to rinse my mouth, convinced myself that it wasn’t what I thought, and tried not to overthink the matter. Subsequently, I unconsciously found myself gazing deeply into my new boyfriend’s mouth while he spoke. I would sometimes see vegetables and other food particles stuck between his teeth and unfortunately for me, he was quite a talkative. This issue made me detached because I couldn’t bring myself to tell him ”my dear, your mouth dey smell baje baje”. No, I refused to be the scapegoat. The height was the first night I spent the night at his space and he attempted to give me a good morning kiss…the rest they say is history. This affected the relationship because I couldn’t bring myself to be intimate with this guy and it made me so angry because he has all sorts of mouthwashes and toothpastes and I still didn’t understand why his mouth still smelled badly. I eventually ended the relationship, found the courage to tell him about the mouth odour, and secretly felt sorry for the next girl to tickle his fancy.”
Sounds heartless right? I’m certain you wouldn’t think so if you have been a victim of having to speak closely to someone with bad breath, not to talk of kissing such a person. If you suffer from this condition solely caused by bad oral hygiene, it’s not all over. You can revive your confidence with the following tips:
- Daily brushing: You may bail on brushing twice daily but No, you cannot skip brushing your teeth at least once a day, every day. The texture of the brush bristle is very important so please keep that in mind when purchasing them. For people with tooth replacements, dentures, and other dental accessories, please keep them clean as they can harbour bacteria.
- Tongue cleaning: Some people see no reason to gently scrape the surface of the tongue. I don’t know if they think the white slimy film found occasionally on the tongue is to be kept for national security reasons. That film contains bacteria and other microbes trapped in it that may be left over by food particles. There are tongue scrapers sold for this purpose and even some toothbrushes have a semi-coarse surface at their backs to aid in tongue cleansing. An inverted teaspoon can also be used but it is important to note that you are not scrubbing jeans so tongue scraping should be done very gently no matter the instrument used.
- Flossing: You may recall from the story that my friend sometimes saw food particles stuck in between her then boyfriend’s teeth. This issue can be overcome by flossing after meals, especially if you feel food between your teeth. A pack of dental flosses is inexpensive and it will do you good if you purchase one to prevent food from decaying in your mouth.
- Eating healthy: I remember when I was asked in a foods and nutrition exam in secondary school on 3 ways to improve dental hygiene. After writing brushing and flossing regularly, I reluctantly added eating crunchy fruits like carrots and celery to help clean the tongue while chewing (I thought I was just filling in the blank space). When the results came out, my teacher came to specially call me out to congratulate me because I was the only person who wrote that point in the exam *pops collar*. Point is, not every time you make a smoothie, sometimes chew the fruits to exercise your teeth, increase saliva production (which helps clean the mouth) and mildly clean the tongue.
- Avoid dehydrating the mouth: Have you noticed that a lot of smokers and alcoholics have bad breaths? That is why you see some of them always with like a carton of TomTom candy. Smoking and alcohol rips the mouth of moisture, thereby complicating the bad breath situation. Always drink lots of water to help rinse the mouth and dilute odours.
- Gargling before sleeping: Gargling with an effective antibacterial mouthwash before bedtime can help reduce the build-up of bad odour while you sleep. This will help that ‘good morning kiss’ you have planned for your lover be accepted without causing an early morning calamity.
- Chewing gum between meals: A dry mouth can complicate halitosis, and chewing stimulates the production of saliva which has antibacterial properties. If it is impossible to brush after meals especially during work hours or when outdoors generally, chewing gum goes a long way in combatting bad breath. Some gums also contain mint to help maintain fresh breath.
These points may look basic but they go a long way in preventing and controlling halitosis. If you have never visited a dentist in your lifetime, it’s about time to schedule a visit to check up your teeth for any issues. It is indeed truly heart-breaking to see beautifully dressed ladies and when you have to speak to them, the stench that accompanies their words is enough to awaken Sleeping Beauty out of anger. Imagine sitting near someone with bad breath in church and it happens to be a person who prays aloud…there is no way your full attention will be on God, and such a person has successfully distracted you which is kind of a sin. The body is God’s temple and should be handled with care. I recall back then in secondary school that girls with bad breath were given mouthwashes, toothpastes or toothbrushes as birthday gifts. Only the naïve ones thought they were genuine gifts from the heart while the others got the subtle message beneath. Besides, you wouldn’t want to be the one whose phone number is stored as ‘Bobo mouth odour’ or ‘Mimi smelling mouth’.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, I believe the mouth is the entrance, the teeth the gates and the tongue the red carpet. They must be kept clean! Recoup your confidence and self-esteem this moment by practising proper oral hygiene if you have been found wanting. Until my next post (which will be sooner than you expect), win that fight against mouth odour!