Breathing. Breathe. Breath

Breathing is fundamental to life. Mammals do it through their lungs, fish through gills, insects through traceae in their abdomen. Without this most important of automatic responses, we cannot survive. Whether consciously or subconsciously, its importance is with us every day and is even reflected in our language when we speak of seeking ‘breathing space’ or of ‘breathing life’ into a piece of writing or work of art.

As a result, it is perhaps unsurprising that yoga – the “ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing”[1] – includes breathing techniques (pranayama).[2]The word pranayama derives from the Sanskrit and has numerous translations and definitions, one being ‘Breath, considered as a life-giving force’.[3]

When we breathe, in simplistic terms we take in air, extract oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. As we breathe in, our intercostal muscles contract, ribcage expands and diaphragm contracts, sucking in air. As we breathe out, the reverse happens, the inter-chest pressure increasing and forcing air out[4]. This happens often without our even being aware that we are doing it.

The air we inhale and exhale, our breath is tangible proof that we are alive. Whether when silent or speaking, fleeting or protracted, full or devoid of emotion, our breath accompanies speech. How we use our breath can be full of meaning too – a sigh can convey deep meaning, as Shakespeare observed “I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought”.[5] Romantic novels may refer to the effect of a hero’s or heroine’s breath upon another, while in moments of agitation, we may tell someone to ‘save your breath’.

Considering the above, it could be said that when we are in close proximity to others, our breathing, how we breathe and our breath, may give away a lot about ourselves. Even our diet can reveal itself in the form of the smell of such things as garlic, spicy foods or coffee. For those seeking a romantic attachment, breath can be a worry and in research carried out in 2013, having fresh breath was a bigger concern for adults worried about a date (59%) than their choice of outfit (52%).[6]  How our breath may define us can be important and so when something changes, it may have a significant effect.

For those who have bad breath, it can be a real concern. Research shows that suffering from bad breath for a long time can cause sufferers psychological stress and affect their social life.[7]

Qualms about bad breath and its effects are not a modern phenomenon either.  In a letter to her sister in 1800, Jane Austen commented on some of the people she met while at a ball, observing that “I was as civil to them as circumstances [Unexpurgated original: "their bad breath"] would allow me”.[8] Shakespeare in his sonnet 130 refers to “the breath that from my mistress reeks” but it is unlikely the Elizabethan practice of carrying a pomander to mask the smells of the time would be acceptable now.

Today’s concerns regarding bad breath are as real as those of our ancestors. A sufferer may initially try self-help remedies or may seek the help of their dentist. Sometimes, a patient with bad breath may not even realize they are a sufferer, but whatever the situation, their dental practice may be the place where they ultimately look for help.

Bad breath can sometimes be the result, or an indication, of an underlying medical condition and it is important to ascertain its cause. Research published in 2012 noted in the Abstract that “In general, intraoral conditions, like insufficient dental hygiene, periodontitis or tongue coating are considered to be the most important cause (85%) for halitosis”.[9] The study also noted that “microbial degradation in the oral cavity is the main cause of oral malodour. Due to this process, volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) are formed.”

Some oral hygiene products for treating bad breath may just mask the bad breath caused by these gases (VSCs), but this may not provide the relief required. CB12 uses a combination of low concentrations of zinc acetate and chlorhexidine to neutralize VSCs, providing effective relief from symptoms for up to 12 hours. 

Helping patients to overcome bad breath can make a big difference to them, and relief from its symptoms can be a ‘breath of fresh air’.  

 For more information on CB12 and the extensive research behind it, please visit www.cb12.co.uk


[1] www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/yoga.aspx

[2] Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review. Sengupta, P., Int. Journal of preventive Medicine. Available at:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415184/

[3] www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/prana

[4] www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/pe/appliedanatomy/1_anatomy_respiratorysys_rev1.shtml

[5] Shakespeare: Sonnet XXX

[6] ‘Bad breath is Brits’ biggest pre-date worry’. Research by Redshift Research on behalf of CB12 of 2001 Uk Adults 2013. Available at:http://www.cb12.co.uk/blog-post/bad-breath-is-brits-biggest-pre-date-worry/

[7] Findings, Diagnoses and Results of a Halitosis Clinic over a Seven year Period. Zürcher, A., Filippi, A. Dept of Oral Surgery. University of Basel. Schweiz Monatsschr Zahnmed. Vol. 122; 3/2012.

[8] Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition. Letters to her sister Cassandra Austen, 1800, 1801.  Letter to Cassandra; Steventon: Thursday (November 20). Text available at: www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/brablet4.html

[9] Halitotis” the multidisciplinary approach.  Curd, M.L., Bollen, Beikler, T. Int. Journal of Oral Science (2012) 4, 55-63.


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