It's hard to say what ratio of Americans suffered from bad breath before the 20th century, but we do know that people in the early 1900s didn't have access to specialty breath fresheners the way we do today.
Still, a little digging turns up some interesting facts about the percentage of the populace with halitosis.
Most dental experts agree that about one-quarter of adults have oral odor at any given moment. For instance, a 1996 study appearing in the Journal of the American Dental Association fixed the ratio of individuals with bad breath right at 25 percent, based on samples collected from hundreds of volunteers.
How does that compare to earlier times? An article in a 1927 issue of Life Magazine - back when the periodical was a humor rag, not the photo-essay journal it later came to be - said that about 30 percent of people have bad breath.
They came to this conclusion by asking 120 hotel clerks - "Who should know better than they?" the article notes - about the halitosis of their clientele.
Today, the figures may be about the same, but the existence of specialty breath fresheners means there is hardly any excuse for halitosis any longer.