Are some people born bad-breath-proof?
July 17, 2010 4:54 AM   Subscribe

My son and his dad (my former husband) never have bad breath. How is this possible?

No kidding, they can drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, eat onions, whatever -- after five, ten, fifteen minutes, you'd never know.

When my husband and I were dating I watched him like a hawk to see what he could be doing to get rid of potential bad breath. "How come you never have bad breath?" "I don't? I don't know. I don't do anything special." He didn't go regularly to the dentist, never used mouthwash, didn't brush more than once a day. In ten years I never figured it out.

When my son got old enough to start liking foods that cause bad breath, I noticed that he had inherited his father's superpower! His dental hygiene is better than his dad's (cause I was in charge of it), but we'll have pasta with garlic, and salad with onions and bleu cheese dressing for dinner, and by the time the dishes are cleared off the table, his breath is sweet again.

No, no, I'm not complaining! (Except that evidently you can't inherit physical characteristics from your husband.) I just wonder if anyone knows what chemical makeup could account for this. There could be millions of people like this, but these two guys are the only ones with whose breath I've been in intimate daily contact.
posted by Srudolph to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you confirmed this with anyone but yourself? My girlfriend, for all her grace and wisdom, thinks that my breath and smell are irresistible, even when they aren't (like first thing in the morning.)

There's something biologically that allows us to find another person's scent to be the right one. If you're the only one you've consulted on this, it could be that your husband/son's breath are similar and that's just a smell you're accustomed to liking.
posted by Hiker at 6:20 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Low carb diets? ("Diet" in the traditional sense of "what they eat", not "pop fad weight-loss plan".) Sugars are easier to digest for many bacteria, too, and therefore encourage proliferation, which means more smelly byproducts.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:02 AM on July 17, 2010

I came here to say exactly what Hiker said. I think that it is most likely some kind of biological or pheromonal thing that your husband passed on to your son.
posted by k8lin at 8:35 AM on July 17, 2010

Best answer: Halitosis is mostly caused by microorganisms breaking down the food particles left in our mouths. Right, now, we know that people can have fairly different microbial populations, but don't have a good handle on why that is. Some of it is certainly environmental, related to eating habits and such, but some of it also depends on personal factors. The immune system plays a role in culling these bacteria, and there are probably other contributors, like slight differences in the pH of your saliva, that might make all the difference.

Factors like these last two may be partially genetic, which explains why your husband and son have similarly fresh breath. Since we don't yet know enough about these dynamic microbial ecosystems to control them, your best bet is to brush after meals, and be glad that you don't have to kiss a smelly spouse.

If you're interested in learning more about the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit your body, read up on the Human Microbiome Project, which is trying to characterize and understand them.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

didn't brush more than once a day

My husband for some reason (I think it started with a camping trip, actually) recently started brushing his teeth only once a day, and we were both amazed to find that he no longer has any breath issues whatsoever. I have no idea why this should be so, but it is truly amazing. Maybe all that brushing was inflaming his gums? Or the toothpaste was altering the pH of his mouth?

I guess this wouldn't explain your son, though.
posted by HotToddy at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2010

We are attracted to people with certain immune systems, a major factor in how someone smells. I'm guessing you just like that way your husband's immune system made him smell, and his son inherited the same traits?
posted by parallax7d at 5:17 PM on July 29, 2010

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