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Dental and Oral Health (Adults)

Milk breath in an adult male

01/15/2009

Question:

My husband is a 27yo healthy adult male; he has no known food allergies or medical conditions of any kind (although his father is Type 2 diabetic), but his breath almost always has the odor of sour milk. He uses 2% milk on his cereal every morning, and then typically has a glass of milk with supper.

He did not go to the dentist regularly until I met him four years ago. I started to make him go in for his cleanings (although once a year is typically the norm), and the dentist has said that my husband has the healthiest teeth and gums he`s ever seen. There are no signs/symptoms of any type of periodontal disease...he`s never even had a cavity.

He brushes his teeth every morning and every night, although not as well as I`d like. He brushes for about 30 seconds and swipes his tongue. He rarely flosses or uses mouthwash. Within a few minutes after he brushes--as soon as the mint scent dissipates--the sour milk smell returns. This occurs even if I make him brush very well a couple of times in a row and scrub his tongue really well. I have a very acute sense of smell, and I literally can`t take it anymore. Half the time it disgusts me to even kiss him.

Could this be a sign of some underlying disease? We`ve switched toothpastes, and it happened with all of the toothpastes we`ve tried. Might there be an ingredient common in toothpaste that is causing this? Other than the obvious remedy of telling him to brush better (which doesn`t really work anyway), what can we do to make the odor go away?

Answer:

Lack of proper oral hygiene is often the source of oral odors. From your description, it does not sound likely that your husband has odor related to periodontal or dental disease. Flossing would be beneficial but most likely would not reduce this odor.

You did not state whether this condition was present since you have known him or if it developed after you were married. If it developed after you were married, it would be beneficial to examine any changes in diet, medications, or physical health. All of these could have an effect on mouth odor.

Often, when no dental cause can be determined, the odor can be traced to some type of disorder such as acid reflux or a mild lactose intolerance that may have a reflux component. From your description of the odor, it would be beneficial to rule out digestive disorders such as acid reflux that can cause mouth odor.

If the results of this testing are negative, I would recommend trying to eliminate certain foods for a short period to see if that affects the presence of the odor. It would be good in this instance to keep a food journal to determine when the odor is the worst and when it is the least offensive.

Another area to consider is medications taken including vitamins, natural supplements, and herbal substances. Good luck!

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Response by:

D Stanley Sharples, DDS
Clinical Assistant Professor of Primary Care Dentistry
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University