Breath of fresh air

Dr Geoffrey Speiser
Dr Geoffrey Speiser

Smelly breath can signal something more sinister than what you ate for breakfast or dinner. Sydney dentist, Dr Geoffrey Speiser, gets to the bottom of what causes bad breath. By Duncan Horscroft

Halitosis, or bad breath, can be very embarrassing for the sufferers of the condition—and it’s not restricted to those with teeth or gum problems.

The condition is caused by a breakdown of the sulphur compounds in the mouth which limits the flow of saliva and is also associated with what is known as ‘dry mouth’.

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, happens when the mouth produces little or no saliva, which is critical in neutralising acids to prevent tooth decay.

Sydney dentist Dr Geoffrey Speiser graduated from the University of Sydney in 1980 and, after treating all facets of dentistry and also working as an emergency dentist on weekends, noticed that many people suffered from bad breath.

In 1997, he sought advice from experts in the United States to see how they were dealing with the halitosis problem. After using their techniques, however, he found he was not happy with their methods and decided to develop his own product line, called Breeze, to combat the increasing problem.

He has since become a pioneer in bad breath and dry mouth treatment in Australia using catechins which are found in green tea, together with gas chromography technology which measures the level of bacteria causing the bad breath by analysing compounds in the mouth.

Through his research into bad breath, Dr Speiser also became aware that dry mouth needed to be addressed, especially with the ageing population where medications contributed to the flow of saliva.

The dentist explains that almost 65 per cent of dry mouth episodes are associated with medication.

“Other dry mouth episodes come from illness such as Sjogren’s syndrome, cancer, diabetes, or tobacco use, alcohol, medical treatments and just simple ageing. Everyone is a candidate for dry mouth as they age—those over 50 years old are especially at risk.”

Dr Speiser started the Dry Mouth Clinic in 2012 after consulting with Dr Stephen Hsu from the medical and dental faculty at Georgia Regents University in the USA. This collaboration led to the development of a range of green tea and xylitol products called DryGuard.

“I had been doing bad breath products for some time but did not want to set up a specialised clinic until I was completely confident,” Dr Speiser says. “There was no chronograph machine available then but I discovered there were machines in Japan and I got one.

“I developed what is now known as Halicheck after consulting with various specialists around the world. I then developed the clinic protocol with a Japanese company that makes medical grade gas chromographs. These machines are considered the gold standard in measuring odours.

“Halicheck is an accurate measuring method for breath and is 100 times more sensitive than the human nose.

“There are around 1000 gas chromograph machines in the world and Australian Breath Clinic has three of them. We are the distributors in Australia and there are six or seven dentists using them as well as dentists in Malaysia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

“When my patients come in I give them a quiz to fill in which determines things like if they floss, have they any gum disease or nasal issues, what kinds of food do they eat or if they’re on any medication. I then take a reading from the gas chromograph and together with the analysis from the clinical examination, I know what to expect.”

Dr Speiser says his practice now comprises about 10 per cent dentistry while the Breath Clinic makes up 90 per cent of his work. “The demand has been extraordinary,” he says. “Most of my patients have their own dentists, but they tend to seek an outside source because of the embarrassment associated with having bad breath. We are very ethical and are not looking to take over from regular dentists.”

As well as the chromograph technology, Dr Speiser has developed a unique range of products—the KFORCE K12 Probiotic range—which is also based on catechins and recognises that bacteria need to live in the mouth.

“We did a study with the Georgia University and made the revolutionary discovery that the anti-oxidants in catechins promoted saliva and that led to developing the range of gum and mouthwash products,” Dr Speiser says. “The catechins play a major role in easing the problem of dry mouth.”

He says that his home treatment range has also been highly successful because many people were embarrassed about visiting a specialist regarding their breath problems, preferring to treat the problem in the privacy of their own home.

“We discovered this treatment after working with BLIS Technologies in Otago, New Zealand, and have found the success rate is almost as high as the successful Halicheck personal visit,” he says. “K12 only lives on the tongue and also flushes the throat of mucous collections.”

Three simple steps—how the Halicheck works:

STEP 1: Halicheck—gas chromograph mouth air measurement
A sample of air is taken from the mouth and put into the Halicheck machine. This air is broken down to over 50 different mouth gases, helping to identify the volume of the main bad breath gases. The test takes 10 minutes and gives a measurement of bad breath coming from the tongue surface, teeth and gums and from the back of the throat at the gag reflex line. Halicheck is the Gold Standard in measuring halitosis.

STEP 2: Lifestyle quiz—in-depth analysis of foods, medicines, daily activities and hygiene habits
Once the area where the bad breath bacteria are living has been determined, you need to work out why this imbalance occurred. Normally this is due to a lifestyle issue. It may be a cleaning error, or it can be overuse of mouthwash. It can even be foods or diets. Dr Speiser has developed an in-depth quiz that examines all aspects of hygiene protocol, medicine intake, illnesses, and food intake during the day. What is revealed in this quiz goes a long way to solving the patient’s halitosis problem.

STEP 3: Clinical examination—periodontal and dental examination The final step of the bad breath consultation is to do a full examination and verify the findings of both the Halicheck gas chromograph and the in-depth lifestyle quiz. This examination also helps determine if there are any dental issues that may be causing problem, such as old restorations, impacted teeth or gum disease.

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