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Rinse Cycle: A Bad Breath Room + the BEST Thing You Can Do for Your Mouth (Nope, it's not Flossing)

If you think flossing is the best thing you can do for your mouth, think again. And no, eating chocolate isn't it either. And hey, would you work in a Bad Breath Room?
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Vintage Listerine ad_Good Housekeeping_1942

Let's think about halitosis for a moment. Think about how bad breath smells. Morning breath, to be specific. Now imagine a hot, humid, 10-by-10 enclosure that smells like morning breath all day long, every day.

Tara Fourre works in just such an environment. And when she gets home at night, her young daughter always knows from the lingering odour on her clothes that mom's spent the day in the Bad Breath Room again.

bacteria factory

"It's a giant incubator," says Fourre (pronounced "foray"), a microbiologist and principal scientist for Listerine. "We do a lot of our experiments at mouth temperature and mouth humidity, so we set the room's temperature at 30 to 33°C -- not exactly 37° -- and humidity is high as well." In that closed room, at Johnson & Johnson in Morris Plains, New Jersey, Fourre and fellow scientists create biofilm. We know it as the smelly stuff that forms in your mouth and all over your teeth while you sleep. Or plaque.

"i grow bacteria and kill it"

"We're growing bacteria that causes bad breath, using people's saliva, taken in the morning before they brush their teeth," explains Fourre, who likes to say I grow bacteria and kill it as her job description. "We have a group of colleagues who are willing to be our guinea pigs. When they wake up in the morning, before they brush their teeth or eat, they chew some paraffin wax and collect it in a tube. They then bring that tube to work in the morning and mix it all together."

I know what you're thinking. Along with "ewww," you wonder: Is a room filled with morning breath something the nose can get used to? "Kinda -- but if the room smells really bad, then you know you did a good job growing the bacteria," says Fourre. "It's an excellent pregnancy indicator, actually. As soon as someone in the lab can't deal with the saliva anymore, that's the first question she gets."

fun oral bacteria facts

  • up to 800 species of bacteria live and grow in your mouth to form pungent, fuzzy layers of biofilm, aka plaque
  • plaque hardens in just 48 hours; in 10 days its name changes to tartar
  • bacteria that camps out in oxygen-free crevices can cause a bigger problem than what my friend Liis calls "breath of a thousand camels" -- left to flourish in your mouth, bacteria can easily cause gum disease
  • only 25% of plaque is accessible by your toothbrush
  • Listerine "punches holes in bacteria" via three essential oils: eucalyptus, mint and thyme
  • Listerine coined the word "halitosis" in 1921
  • as well as mouthwash, in the 1920s Listerine was recommended as a dandruff remedy -- and a facial astringent
  • According to an industry-shaking Canadian Listerine study (conducted in Missisauga, ON), adding antiseptic mouth rinse to your regular brushing/flossing routine can kill bacteria so effectively that it can boost your oral health by a whopping 50 percent -- see the graph in the slideshow below

If you have an inexplicable yen to check out the Listerine Bad Breath Room in New Jersey, good news -- you totally can. The company hosts a number of tours through the facility; the Bad Breath Room is an optional visit (for kids' tours, a tongue-shaped red shag carpet might appear at the entry door).

Do you already use an antiseptic mouth rinse regularly? Would you go into Listerine's Bad Breath Room if you had the chance? Could you imagine having to work in a room like that? (I'm not sure I could handle it.)

NOT a sponsored post (someone asked -- *shrug*). Opening photo cropped from a 1942 Listerine ad in Good Housekeeping; via Slideshow graph reproduced with permission of Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of MCNEIL-PPC, Inc. © McNEIL-PPC, Inc. 2013