Sure, you know what bad breath smells like, but do you think you could identify the source of halitosis just from its scent? Most people couldn't, even seasoned dentists, which is why two microbiologists at the University of West England, Bristol, are now offering a course for health professionals that will train their noses to be more discerning when sniffing halitosis.
It may sound funny, but Professor Saliha Saad said that there's a serious purpose behind it.
"They need to distinguish between odours that are present on the 'mouth' breath, which can be caused by microbes on the tongue, gum disease or tooth decay, all of which can be easily treated, and with volatiles carried on breath from the lungs that could denote more serious diseases or organ failure," she said in a recent press release. All "mouth breath" causes can be minimized with specialty breath fresheners.
Saad, a professional halitosis judge, added that about 80 percent of oral odor originates in the mouth, with the remaining 20 percent coming from the stomach, lungs or blood.
So how do you train dentists, doctors and breath experts to be more adept at nosing out the causes of halitosis? Saad, along with professor John Greenman, teach a five-day workshop that includes:
- Rating organic odors by strength
- Learning the specific scents of different compounds
- Connecting them to oral and physical conditions
- Comparing the "quality" of halitosis to different analogues (like cabbage, eggs, etc.)
- Learning to use a halimeter
Greenman and Saad also test their students for anosmia, a condition in which someone is "scent-blind."