Studying morning breath

February 15, 2011

The Column

The Column, The Column-02-04-2011, Volume 7, Issue 2

To gain deeper insight into morning breath, researchers developed a procedure to collect breath samples at home.

Put technically, breath malodour is an important negative factor in social communication. Volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) are considered to be important contributors to bad breath and, therefore, are suitable biomarkers for breath quality evaluation. Morning breath gives a good indication as to the efficacy of treatments, but few studies have attempted to measure VSC levels directly after waking, instead inviting subjects into the laboratory at a fixed time in the morning. To gain deeper insight into morning breath, researchers developed a procedure to collect breath samples at home.1

Subjects placed a syringe between their lips and maintained that position for 1 minute, then used the syringe to collect 10 mL of breath. Samples were taken directly after waking and shortly before and directly after breakfast. VOC levels in the samples were analysed later using a portable GC device.The results showed that VSC concentrations declined appreciably in the first hour after the subject woke up, disappearing after breakfast even without direct dental hygiene.

Surprisingly, the researchers found a significantly higher VSC concentration in the female population. Comparing this to previous studies suggests the effect may be limited to morning breath only. While the causes are unclear, the study does suggest that endogenous factors, such as salivary flow-rate, may play a role.

1. J. Snel et al., Arch. Oral Bio., 56(1), 29–34 (2011).

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.