Many people have experienced mouth or body odor at some point in their life, from friends and strangers, even worse right at home from somebody very close. As we get older, another form of body odor creeps in, not because of improper care or hygiene but as a natural part of getting older. The worst part of both mouth and body odor is that it may silently break relationships. People may limit or avoid contact without telling you why.

Some of those very close to you may let you know, especially your spouse, children and grandkids. But the further away the relationship, if it is not paved in stone, the more likely they would politely stay away or break intimate relationships. The fear of telling someone about mouth or body odor is not out of meanness but out of respect, not to hurt other people’s feelings, loss of gratuities or different advantages.

The reason unpleasant odor is common among men and less so among women has to do with enculturation from the days they were little girls. Parents sometimes let more boys get away with untidiness and many mothers clean up after their boys. Compare how neat most girls’ space are, to those of most boys at home with the same parents. It shows that not all privileges boys enjoy are positive. A few privileges may actually pose problem later in life.

Mouth odor or halitosis is much easier to prevent and deal with medically than body odor or older person’s smell (2-nonenal). Mouth odor can be prevented through good oral hygiene and visit to the dentist at least once a year. African parents are very strict about oral hygiene. Even in the villages, there are different types of chewing sticks with neutral to different tastes, from bitter to peppery plants that can kill bacteria causing bad mouth odor. There is also mouthwash (Ogun efu) in various flavors in cities and villages.

Unfortunately, many people without the help of dentist wait too long until their gums start irritating, bleeding and swelling (gingivitis). It does not have to get to that stage with good oral hygiene. We have to understand that our mouth is a reservoir for flora colony of bacteria useful for the food we eat, just like the rest of our guts (intestines and stomach) down to excretion after food is processed or bowel movement into waste.

We can help our teeth with digestion by cooking meat softer, cutting them into pieces on the plate into a bunch and staying away from bones as we get older. There is no need to create a fight between your fingers and your teeth trying to pull and cut meat to size.

This pathway from our mouth down, needs regular movement and cleaning. If food stick to our teeth too long, it gets rotten and starts to smell like anywhere else we notice spoilt food. In our mouth, spoilt food invite bacteria growth that weakens gums and damages our teeth. If they are not regularly cleaned, we develop sore gums that start bleeding. Sooner than later, our teeth coloration change, get damaged with holes (cavity).

Flossing after every meal cannot be overemphasized. Kola and bitter kola are also used as antibacterial agents by our elders. As kids after eating agbalumo we turned the skin into chewing gum. Fortunately, both guava fruit and its leaves are considered excellent antiplaque agents to help remove plaque accumulated on the teeth and gums. Plus, they have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help reduce swelling and pain in the gum.

African students, Eveshorhema Sophia Samuel-Alli and Ibukunoluwa Ruth Oladeinde got worldwide recognition when they discovered in an experiment that African walnut (coula edulis) killed bad bacteria and cured mouth odor.

Plague is a pale yellow layer of bacteria that forms on teeth naturally. When combined in multiple layers with minerals and bacteria in saliva, they harden into white calcified substance called tartar. Tartar is a dental buildup of plague into calculus. Another 2008 study published in The Journal of Clinical Dentistry analyzed five clinical studies and concluded that baking soda paste or powder can efficiently remove plaque.

Restoration and cure can be very painful and expensive. Of course dentists have done better with anesthetics to make it less painful. The point here is that it does not have to get to that stage especially in our younger days. So as always, prevention is better than cure. Another 2015 study published in the Nigerian Medical Journal suggests that oil pulling with coconut oil is effective at reducing plaque formation.

Body odor may not be easily distinguished from mouth odor by friends and relative during contact.  Sweat glands perspiration function to maintain constant body temperature level. So, the skin is cooled as perspiration evaporates. Perspiration itself actually has no odor. It’s only when sweat encounters bacteria on the skin that the smell radiates.  Therefore, body odor (bromhidrosis) is a result of excessive secretion from our sweat glands (apocrine or eccrine) that becomes foul on contact with bacteria on the skin.

Old People Body Odor (2-nonenal) is the tough, unavoidable one in our advanced age around 40s. However, if nursing home can control and bring the smell to a minimum, so can individuals. We have to realize that as we get older, more cleaning-up than ever becomes the rule.

Again older women are better at smelling good than men. It is not just a matter of using good perfumes, they clean up more frequently. They also use deodorant, attractive and sweet perfumes that are hard to ignore. Well, they want to look good and attractive. So should men!

Of course, people’s bodily scents can also vary depending on their individual diets and lifestyle choices. One Japanese source provides a list of tips for those self-conscious readers who wish to decrease their unpleasant natural scents:

  • For protein, eat more fish than meat, and even more soy products than fish.
  • Get plenty of antioxidants by eating dark-colored vegetables, sesame seeds, nuts, and citrus fruits.
  • Eat more brown rice.
  • Try to get at least six hours of sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your sebaceous glands will go into overdrive and production of the chemical 2-nonenal will increase.

Japanese persimmons and Southern Africa persimmons found throughout Africa from Senegal and the Sudan to Namibia and into northern Transvaal may accomplish the same magic in eliminating old person smell. The best natural body odor comes from babies and manufacturers capitalize on many baby powder and perfumes products. Hausa perfumes may be too strong for some but cover any unpleasant body odors. There are also incense and traditional body robs to attract opposite sex and convey messages to animals or enemies like mosquitoes; to keep off!