Does nosebreath stink?
March 31, 2009 2:31 PM   Subscribe

If you have bad breath, does exhaling through your nose smell better than exhaling through your mouth? Does it matter if you inhaled through your mouth or your nose?

I left the house with bad breath this morning and was wondering if my mitigation strategy until I found some mints was successful. I spent a couple hours very consciously trying to breath through my nose.
posted by pseudonick to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
This is a total guess, but I'd assume if the source of odor is coming from your stomach, then nose breath would smell equally bad as mouth breath. If the source is coming from a stinky mouth, however, your mitigating strategy might have some truth behind it. I am not a professional breath analyst, so...
posted by bjork24 at 2:36 PM on March 31, 2009

Air coming out of your nose shouldn't smell bad since it bypasses your mouth completely. If it does smell bad it's something more serious like a bacteria infection in your nasal track.
posted by zephyr_words at 2:37 PM on March 31, 2009

On Bjorks point bad breath should almost never come from the stomach (especially not through the nose) unless it's from a belch because normally your esophagus is closed.
posted by zephyr_words at 2:41 PM on March 31, 2009

Good point Zephyr. But what if the top of your esophageal sphincter is smelly?
posted by bjork24 at 2:43 PM on March 31, 2009

I'd guess that the person had something more serious going on like a bacterial infection. I know Tonsilliths are a common cause of mysterious bad breath smell too.

/I'm not a doctor or anything I just have a basic understanding of the ENMT.
posted by zephyr_words at 2:50 PM on March 31, 2009

From the first result from Googling bad breath:
What you eat affects the air you exhale. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor. Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled. Brushing, flossing and mouthwash will only mask the odor temporarily. Odors continue until the body eliminates the food.
Maintaining good oral health is essential to reducing bad breath. Schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup. If you think you have constant bad breath, keep a log of the foods you eat and make a list of medications you take. Some medications may play a role in creating mouth odors. Let your dentist know if you've had any surgery or illness since your last appointment.
And the third result:
Certain foods, health conditions and habits are among the causes of bad breath. In many cases, you can improve bad breath with proper dental hygiene. But, if simple self-care techniques don't solve the problem, you may want to see your dentist to be sure a more serious condition isn't causing your bad breath.
So. I'd say that it depends on the reason your breath is stinking. Is it a chronic occurrence? Do you always have bad breath? Then it may be affecting your nose-breath as well. If it's just morning breath, a buildup of mouth bacteria, then probably not.
posted by rhapsodie at 2:55 PM on March 31, 2009

Just normal morning breath.

Basically, I was hoping tomorrow morning someone out there will try

(1) inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the nose at a close friend
(2) inhaling through the mouth, exhaling through the nose at a close friend
(3) inhaling through the mouth, exhaling through the mouth at a close friend

And having them rank the results. It would be for science.

And report to me the results. Sadly, right now, I'm not sure I'm comfortable asking anyone I know to try this experiment.
posted by pseudonick at 3:12 PM on March 31, 2009

It doesn't smell, unless there's something else going on like above. I know -- I actually love the smell of nosebreath (kind of wishing I could post anonymously...). But anyway, morning breath doesn't affect it.
posted by thebazilist at 5:08 PM on March 31, 2009

I am pretty sure that breathing through the nose is always a better strategy. I base this assumption on the fact that whenever I notice someone's bad breath, they are exhaling through their mouth or they have their mouth open in some way. Especially on the train in the morning, where people yawn or snore and have evidently not cleaned their teeth that morning.
posted by andraste at 5:13 PM on March 31, 2009

Bad breath is mostly caused by compounds containing sulphides (sulphur ions) evaporating from your saliva into the air that you're exhaling. These compounds are created as waste products by the bacteria living in your mouth, mostly on your tongue and gums, and at the back of your throat above the epiglottis.

So, it depends where most of your bacteria are living. If you're just talking about morning breath, most of the smell is probably coming from your tongue: because there's not much airflow through your mouth when you're asleep and you don't swallow as much, the sulphides have a chance to build up in your saliva. In this case, breathing out through your mouth carries clean(ish) air from your lungs over the stinky saliva, making the air smell. Breathing out through your nose won't carry the air over your tongue and will only pick up odour from the back of your throat, so it shouldn't smell as bad.

People with chronic bad breath might have an unusually smell species of bacteria living at the back of the mouth or top of the throat. I've also heard of infections of the larynx causing a noticable smell, but that's less common and probably the least of your problems if your larynx gets infected with something unpleasant. In these cases, all the air flowing up from the lungs will pass over the sulphide-containing saliva and/or mucous, so breath exhaled from the nose and mouth should smell equally bad.
posted by metaBugs at 3:28 AM on April 1, 2009

Funny that I was just thinking about this this morning when a friend was talking to me after an everything bagel and a cup of coffee (mmmmm, lovely breath, as you can imagine). I tried not to talk much and just breathe out of my nose too, because to me that smelled better than what was coming out of my mouth.

I'll try the morning breath experiment tomorrow and report back!

Also, I've found that, at least for me, mints don't really help morning breath once the mint dissolved. Morning breath just comes right back, maybe because my teeth are coated with what feels like morning film until I brush them.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:58 AM on April 1, 2009

It does not work. The "fumes" from mouth/tongue are easily accessible by the nose. Just because you can't smell your exhalations (because you've acclimated to it), doesn't mean other's can't. friend and I were in a kinda uppity social situation once when he had to burp. He burped, and exhaled it though his nose...right into my face. He REALLY thought I wouldn't smell it...but I still freaking hate the smell of Fritos.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:57 PM on April 1, 2009

OK, so I got very-sleepy-boyfriend to participate in the experiment yesterday morning. I made him breathe both through his nose and through his mouth (I only did one mouth experiment though, I didn't do the one where you inhale through the mouth and exhale through the nose).

Breathing through the nose is DEFINITELY better than breathing through the mouth. Still stinky, but a bit better. So, keep breathing through the nose if you think you're stinky!
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:41 PM on April 3, 2009

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