Are you looking for a bad breath cure? Two journal articles from Turkey in 2003 have identified possible culprits.

Parasites in children

Parasites should be considered as a possible cause of bad breath in children. According to the report,1 researchers decided to investigate the relationship between parasites and bad breath when a mother told them that the bad breath of her child infested with pinworm – a common parasite – disappeared after anti-parasitic treatment.

To investigate, the researchers gave 82 youngsters an anti-parasitic medication and another group of 80 children an inactive placebo. All of the parents of the children in the study had complained that their child had chronic bad breath.

Stool samples collected from the children were tested for the presence of parasites, such as pinworm, at the start and end of the study period.

Of the children found to have parasites in their stool samples, 18 of 28 who were treated recovered from halitosis, compared with 2 of 24 kids with parasites that received a placebo. Among those who did not have stool parasites, 14 of 52 improved with the treatment compared with 10 of 48 taking placebo.

It seems that the anti-parasitic medication worked at reducing bad breath, whether or not the children had parasites.


Helicobacter pylori

Persistent bad breath may also be a warning sign that a patient is infected with Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium linked to ulcers, gastritis, and stomach cancer. Many cases of H. pylori infection emerge only when people develop symptoms, such as bloating, pain, or indigestion. The Turkish researchers wanted to assess the frequency of halitosis before and after eradication therapy for the bacterium.

In this study,2 148 people who had a type of indigestion called dyspepsia, and bad breath, were given treatment to kill off H. pylori. Four weeks later their symptoms were assessed again. The results showed that, before treatment, bad breath was the third most common symptom, behind bloating and pain. More than 60% of the patients involved had halitosis. After eradication therapy however, many patients reported their bad breath had disappeared. In patients with confirmed H. pylori eradication, the most successfully resolved symptoms were halitosis and hunger-like pain.

A combination of antibiotics and drugs called proton pump inhibitors can clear the infection, and has a good likelihood of reducing halitosis.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 136 – March/April 2003
1. B Ermis, T Aslan, L Beder, M Unalacak. A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Mebendazole for Halitosis. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 2002; 156:995-998
2. E Serine, Y Gumurdulu, F Kayaselcuk et al. Halitosis in patients with Helicobacter pylori-positive non-ulcer dyspepsia: an indication for eradication therapy? European Journal of Internal Medicine. 2003;14(1):45-48