Did you ever notice that your mom or dad had kind of bad breath? Or that you always knew when that aunt was headed your way for the annual reunion kiss because you could smell her breath from a mile away? 

Well, researchers have shown that while most bad breath is caused by bacteria growth in the mouth, there is a chance that no matter how hard those family members try to keep bacteria at bay by brushing their teeth and cleaning their tongues daily, a genetic mutation might be causing their halitosis.

Selenium binding protein 1

Maybe it sounds like a constellation or something more down to earth, like something to do with a tummy ache, but Selenium binding protein 1, also known as SELENBP1, can convert methanethiol into other substances in the body.  Methanethiol, a sulphur-based compound, is normally produced during digestion but is generally broken down in the body, has a foul, cabbage-like odor.

So, what do you mean mutation then?

Scientists have shown that a genetic mutation of SELENBP1 can cause high levels of methanethiol and dimethyl sulfide in their blood. When blood reaches the lungs, these smelly sulfur compounds leave the blood and are exhaled in breath. They have confirmed these findings with studies of mice with mutations of the SELENBP1 gene (although they admit it is hard to smell the breath of the little critters 😉)

What about my family? Will I have bad breath then?

Most of these studies are in progress and, while there is a confirmed link between the mutation of the gene and halitosis, the hereditary probabilities have not yet been established. And, since there is nothing that can be done yet to reverse or correct the mutation, remember that it is also extremely rare. Studies have shown than only 3% of those with chronic bad breath may have this problem.

So, the best thing you can do is continue to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regime, maintain excellent oral hygiene habits and, of course, be sure to see your dentist and primary care physician regularly so that they can monitor your overall health. Then, given the rarity of the mutation, hand that aunt just a nice (sugarless) breath mint before she lands that kiss on you!

Certain Gene Mutation Linked to Bad Breath