Thinkstock
Thinkstock

What Causes Morning Breath?

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Some mornings, the only thing that can convince you to get out of a warm, snuggly bed is the overwhelming stench emanating from your own mouth. Possibly the only thing worse than morning breath is the alarm clock itself, but no amount of brushing, flossing, or stinging mouthwash rinsing the night before seem capable of saving you from the stinking scourge. What gives?

Here’s the good news: Morning breath is just regular, run-of-the-mill bad breath, or halitosis—a diagnosis that sounds much worse than it is. While chronic halitosis is fairly uncommon, most people wake up with some form of oral unpleasantness, and there’s nothing medically worrying about it. But that doesn’t make it any more of a joy, especially for the first person you talk to before brushing your teeth.

The key to understanding why our breath smells first thing in the morning is to first understand why it doesn’t smell the rest of the time. As we go about our usual daylight business, bacteria are at work breaking down all the amino acids, proteins, and other chemicals left behind in our mouths from our last meal. This process produces volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) like hydrogen sulfide, dimethyl sulfide, and methyl mercapatan, which are responsible for the funk. In our waking hours, our own saliva washes away the bacteria before they can do their smelly damage; when we fall asleep, our saliva production calls it a night, too.  In the absence of much saliva, the VSC-causing bacteria run wild, and the sulfuric compounds build up until their grand unveiling in the morning.

It’s a simple equation—mouth plus bacteria minus saliva equals yuck—but the bad news is that there’s not much we can do about it. Brushing before bed will help minimize the damage by reducing the amount of compounds for the bacteria to feed on, and drinking a glass of water before bed will compensate at least a little bit for the impending loss of saliva.  Other than that, keep your mouth locked down in the morning until you can get to a toothbrush, and we’ll all live happier, fresher-smelling lives.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
iStock
iStock

Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
iStock
iStock

Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios