Halitosis, also known as bad breath, is a chronic oral problem that affects over 60 million people in the United States. Generally, there are two major factors that cause halitosis: tongue plaque and gum disease. It is estimated that tongue plaque is attributed to 90% of the cases of people with halitosis. Six common types of bacteria, which are known to be highly proportionate in the plaque among people with halitosis, are veillonella, actinomyes, streptococcus parasanguinis, camyplobacter concisus, megasphaera, and neisseria. It is likely that the putrefaction of these bacteria creates volatile sulfur compounds (VSC's) that emanate the foul odor that causes bad breath. VSC's in the mouth that were analyzed through gas chromatography were found to consist of CH3SH, H2S, and (CH3)2S.
Although it is possible to find out whether a person has halitosis by utilizing gas chromatography, most dentists use a commercially-available instrument known as the Halimeter which is specifically designed to measure the volatile sulfur compounds in a person's mouth.
Also, an easier yet less reliable method of determining whether a person has halitosis is to have the person take a washcloth, rub or scrape it against the back portion of his tongue two or three times, wait for about 45 seconds and then smell the cloth to determine whether it has an foul odor. Foul odor would usually mean that the person has halitosis.
Treatment for halitosis today is a lucrative industry that invests ten billion dollars annually to create products that help combat the problem. The majority of the products that are marketed to treat halitosis are common brand-name mouthwashes, toothpastes, sprays, mints, and gum. The effectiveness of these products is questionable; specifically mouth-wash, which claims to be able to alleviate bad breath.