Having bad breath can cause extreme embarrassment and distress to sufferers, which is why the oral health care category has continued to flourish in recent years. with an ever-growing number of mouthwash treatments and oral care mints and chewing gums coming on the market.
While most of the growth has been at this self-treatment end of the market, a new laser treatment for one of the worst forms of halitosis has now been developed that tackles one cause of halitosis which has been harder to treat with off-the-shelf products.
Mild halitosis usually results from anaerobic bacteria breeding in shallow cavities in the gums or teeth. The bugs release foul-smelling gases such as hydrogen sulphide. Routine dental treatment, regular brushing and mouthwashes usually solve this problem.
But there are more persistent cases and Yehuda Finkelstein of the Meir Hospital at the Sapir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel, has found that the tonsils are often to blame. Tonsils have deep airless crypts and grooves that make perfect breeding grounds for anaerobic bacteria.
"It's the ideal place for them," he said.
Finkelstein has successfully treated the condition using a laser procedure lasting just 15 minutes. The laser vaporises infected tissue and seals the crypts by creating scar tissue that bacteria cannot colonise. More than half of a group of 53 patients were cured in one session, while the others were cured after either two or three treatments.
But despite the treatment's apparent efficacy, there is some reassuring news for those involved in developing new self-treatment oral care products. Richard Price, a consumer adviser to the American Dental Association, said that the procedure would probably only prove to be useful as a last resort, and that in any case tonsils only cause up to 6 per cent of halitosis cases.
"Try conventional treatment first," he says. "Scraping the tongue and using mouthwash seems to work for most people."