Bad breath on dentists' minds

The Faculty of Dentistry isn't afraid to talk about bad breath.

That's why they're hosting the Third International Conference on Breath Odor on campus Aug. 22-23.

Vancouver was chosen as the site of this year's conference because of UBC's pioneering research into the scientific aspects of breath odor.

Prof. Emeritus Joe Tonzetich began investigating oral malodor when he joined the faculty in 1968. His work launched research that has gained international recognition.

Along with four other faculty colleagues--oral biologists Don Brunette, Douglas Waterfield, and Ken Yaegaki, and endontist Jeff Coil--he's currently studying the effects of one of bad breath's known culprits--sulphur compounds.

Previously believed to be only a cosmetic issue , bad breath is now being taken seriously by researchers for two reasons, says Dr. Edward Yen, dean of Dentistry.

"Not only dental problems, but gastrointestinal, liver, and lung problems can be diagnosed through breath analysis," Yen says.

The other reason is cultural.

"In this society, we're very aware of cleanliness. For some people, concern about bad breath amounts to a phobia."

Yen says while breath testing devices and techniques are becoming fashionable, most are not scientifically based and are ethically questionable. Research will help establish effectiveness.

The conference has drawn experts in oral malodor from as far as Europe and Australia. Speakers include gastroenterologists as well as psychiatrists.

"We'll be getting the most up-to-date information," says Assoc. Dean Don Brunette, conference chair. "Everything from the operation of malodor clinics to the molecular aspects of the sense of smell will be presented."

Over 200 dentists, doctors, nurses, hygienists and public health workers are expected to attend the conference which is sponsored by corporations that include Colgate-Palmolive, Church and Dwight, Unilever and Warner-Lambert.