What is the connection between zinc and bad breath? You may have noticed that many mouthwashes and other halitosis remedies on the market contain zinc, even some of the oldest brand names, indicating that we have known for a long time that zinc can help in persistent cases of bad breath. It's true that zinc is an essential trace element known for its role in growth, immunity and healing. It has been incorporated into dietary supplements and skin lotions for many years.
Researchers and those who suffer from halitosis have found that a zinc mouthwash can help a lot. The specific link between zinc and bad breath seems to lie in the element's ability to prevent the production of foul smelling compounds that give halitosis its extremely offensive odor - the odor is actually produced by anaerobic bacteria in the mouth (anaerobes are bacteria that live in the absence of oxygen). If you have ever come across organic material that has been decomposing in an airless environment, such as a plastic bag or a very wet heap of rotting vegetation, you know how foul it can smell. What you smell are volatile sulfur compounds - gases produced by the bacteria that are proliferating in the decaying material. Zinc appears to block the production of these gases in anaerobic bacteria, greatly reducing the objectionable odor of halitosis.
Though most people with halitosis probably do not have an actual dietary deficiency of zinc, this is a possibility. Bad breath has been identified as a symptom of zinc deficiency, suggesting that dietary levels of zinc and bad breath, particularly chronic bad breath, may be closely related. Ensuring that you get adequate levels of zinc in the diet might be as effective as using zinc mouthwash if deficiency is a problem. To increase dietary levels of zinc, eat seafood, red meat, dark meat from chicken, kidney beans, lentils, and nuts such as almonds and cashews. You can also take a dietary supplement.
Because you merely rinse the mouth with zinc mouthwash, this will not raise your body's level of zinc. You will need to actually eat foods rich in zinc or take a supplement in order to correct zinc deficiency. It's also useful to know that certain other foods interfere with the absorption of zinc in foods. Notably, these include dairy products and foods high in fiber. Certain medical conditions and drugs also interfere with absorption. If you have any medical conditions or are on any prescription drugs, or if you suspect a link between zinc and bad breath in your particular case, see you doctor to discuss options for correcting the problem.
R. Drysdale is a freelance writer with more than 25 years experience as a health care professional. She is a contributing editor to zinc and bad breath , a blog dedicated to the treatment of bad breath.