The Mouth of Man

Men's Health |

We speak to the experts to bring you the facts on why your body does what it does.

Should I remove my wisdom teeth?

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. “It’s the same as for the appendix,” says Dr Mark Jackson. “If it isn’t giving you trouble or causing a problem, leave it alone. If they are pushing, impacted or infected, then it’s a different story.”

Why does my mouth water?

“Your mouth waters when you see food or anticipate food,” says Dr Phillip Pio, ENT specialist. “It is a reflex that helps you lubricate your mouth and throat so as to easier chew and swallow food.”

How do I stop hiccups?

“Hiccups are spasms of the diaphragm,” explains Professor Robin Green of the University of Pretoria, and can have insignificant causes like temperature changes, alcohol and carbonated drinks. He says that hiccups respond to holding deep breaths, although treatment for more significant cases is very difficult and sometimes seizure medication is used.

What happens at night to make my morning breath so bad?

Fermentation. Dr Chris Idzikowski, a consultant of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, says bad breath in the morning is usually a result of the several hours that you spent sleeping when you weren’t doing anything much except letting material ferment in your mouth. Gastro-oesophageal reflux, whereby some stomach contents can work their way back into the mouth, also contributes to morning breath, he says. Healthcare professionals at the Oral Hygienists’ Association of South Africa say that by not brushing and flossing your teeth properly before going to bed, the food particles that remain in your mouth are broken down and promote bacterial growth between the teeth, around the gums and on the tongue. Also, by sleeping with your mouth open, it dries out and this adds to the gasps of wrath. Want to slay dragon breath? “Clean your teeth, lose weight and use a pillow to prop yourself up while you sleep,” Idzikowski says.

What is that furry sensation on my teeth?

It’s plaque that’s pulling the wool over your teeth. “Plaque builds up in the mouth all the time, whether you’re eating or not,” says Jackson. “First it forms a protein layer called the pellicle, which traps more plaque. This layer starts to get thicker and thicker, causing the start of that furry feeling.” He says that if this remains on your teeth, the calcium salts in the saliva precipitate and you start to get calculus (also known as tartar) forming. “This is rough and collects more plaque,” says Jackson. “You can’t remove this with a brush any more; it has to be scraped off by a dentist or oral hygienist.” Crowded, irregular teeth are more difficult to clean so more plaque builds up. “That is one good reason to have them straightened; they’re easier to clean,” Jackson says. “More teeth are lost from gum disease than tooth decay,” he warns.