Word of mouth has it that bad breath may soon be gone for good. That’s because centers specializing in halting halitosis have sprung up across California and the nation – and more are opening wide to keep up with the demand. In a hyper-hygienic society obsessed with perfection, having beautifully fresh breath is becoming the latest health craze.
“The public is definitely more conscious of breath odors than they were 10 or 15 years ago,” said Anthony Dailley, who opened the Center for Breath Treatment in San Francisco’s Financial District four months ago. “Everyone’s always looking for a higher level of health.” So far about 100 people have turned to him for help, said Dailley, who worked for 15 years as a dentist before shifting the focus of his practice. But he has a hunch that thousands more could benefit by having better breath. “Almost everyone I come across has a story about someone they work with (having bad breath), once they find out what I do,” he said with a chuckle. Dental industry figures estimate that about 10 percent of the population – about 25 millionpeople – suffers from chronic bad breath, and as many as 50 million people have varying degrees of offensive oral odor, said Dailley. But the treatments are not aimed at those who 30 indulge in the occasional garlic-encrusted bagel, savor some French onion soup or have a long sleep. While a thorough brushing is enough to get rid of the stench for most people, others need a more scientific approach. The treatment Dailley and others use is a method designed by St. Louis dentist Marvin Cohen. It’s a new approach to a problem that has existed throughout human history – from cave dwellers to corporate executives, explained Cohen. In 1994 he invented a device called the Halimeter – a hybrid of two other dental instruments that measures the level of sulfuric acid in the mouth. Gas from the acid creates the rotten egg-like smell and, once located, the acid can be neutralized with special rinses and toothpaste. The magic ingredient is chlorine dioxide, a chemical that “makes it difficult for the bugs to survive,” as Cohen puts it. Specially designed brushes, tongue scrapers and all-over mouth brushing techniques also are part of the program, said Cohen. He opened his A-H Clinic in St. Louis in 1994 – the letters stand for anti-halitosis – and estimates there are 30 to 40 similar centers nationwide. The biggest problem is that most people believe bad breath begins in the digestive system, but most of the problems are caused in the mouth, said Greg Leisle, a pediatric dentist for 21 years who opened the Central California Breath Center in Fresno in 1995. Older people and those who take certain prescription medicines for ailments such as liver problems can suffer from a dry mouth, which also is more prone to smell bad. Postnasal drip landing on the back of the tongue is another common problem. The most severe cases usually are associated with serious ailments, and those are the hardest to treat. Paul Hsia, a 45-year-old software engineer from Palo Alto, says he wished his dentist could have spared him years of embarrassment caused by his bad breath. Co-workers recoiled and friends avoided him. He habitually covered his mouth with his hand when he spoke, but he said he knew the problem was too pungent to hide. “It got so bad that even my wife said, “You have to get that fixed,’ ” he said. His dentist simply told him to brush more frequently, which led him to store toothpaste, floss and rinses in his desk drawer and make frequent trips to the men’s room. Like many people who have chronic halitosis, Hsia brushed his teeth fanatically to conquer the strong smell. “I bought mouthwash in two-gallon containers because I would use it like crazy,” he said. “I was desperate to try anything.” When he heard a radio advertisement for Dailley’s breath center during his commute one day about a month ago, he couldn’t wait to call. He winced at the $530 fee at first, but said it has been worth it. After a few visits to the center, he said, he breathed a fresh sigh of relief for the first time in years. “When I came home, my wife was so surprised, she said, “What kind of chemical are you using?’ ” he recalled. Hsia has a healthy sense of humor about halitosis now but said he knows the havoc it can wreak – which is why he is unafraid to tell others about the difference the treatment has made in his life. “I’ll just bring up the subject if we’re at lunch, and I’ll tell them about my experience,” he said. “It has made me so happy. . . . I want other people to be happy too.”
©2000 San Francisco Examiner