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News / May 12, 2008

Dental experts flush out

by Guy Hiscott

Dental school scientists have found previously unidentified families of bacteria that contribute to bad breath.

The experts – on the trail of a cure for halitosis – found the bugs in the back of people’s mouths by using new techniques for gathering and analysing bacteria.

The three-year study was carried out by a team of experts at Glasgow University Dental School.

Researchers also believe they have isolated the families of bugs responsible for creating bad breath and say the next step will be finding a way to stop the bacteria from producing bad odours.

UK consumers spend £100 million a year on breath-freshening mouthwashes and another £18 million on chewing gum and sprays to make their breath smell fresh.

The scientists analysed the bacteria on the tongues of 20 halitosis sufferers, using new techniques that can examine traces of bacteria DNA.

The study found 39 new kinds of bacteria around the back of the tongue alone, adding to the 700 strains already known about.

The new kinds of bacteria have been classified according to what kinds of known bacteria they are most similar to.

The experts found that individuals with bad breath had more of the previously unidentified bacteria than those without halitosis.

They also found a link between two known families of bacteria and odours in the mouth.

Dr Marcello Riggio, an expert in microbiology at the dental school, said: ‘What we have done here is work out which families of bacteria seem to be responsible for bad breath.

‘The key now is to find out how to neutralise the reactions which cause the nasty smelly compounds.

‘Most mouthwashes don’t actually cure bad breath, they just mask the smell with something else. There are washes which contain strong antiseptics, which kill bacteria, but you can’t use them for long periods of time.’