How do you check to see if you have bad breath? Do you exhale into your cupped hands and huff the air there? Or do you maybe ask a friend to take a quick whiff? Either way, you're probably not being thorough enough. That's because halitosis experts say there are many other ways to pinpoint oral odor.
Recently, a team of German researchers recommended six separate ways to test for bad breath. Fortunately, none of them involved expensive machinery or chemical titration. Instead, the group recommended approaching the problem organoleptically - that is, by using your nose.
Why breathing into your hands doesn't work
Coughing into your palms and then sniffing is a great method...of finding out what your hands smell like. Unfortunately, the volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that make bad breath stink are a bit too fleeting to stay in your hands for long.
Then there's the problem of interconnected perception: Your senses of taste and smell operate simultaneously, which is why pinching your nose can help you choke down a spoonful of, say, nasty cough syrup. But this also means that prolonged exposure to your own stinky saliva makes it harder to taste OR smell.
Hence, specialty breath fresheners are important because you almost never instinctively know that your breath stinks.
Sniffing halitosis the right way
In the International Journal of Oral Science, German scientists recommended six distinct ways to detect bad breath.
1. Have a friend put their face six inches from yours. Count to 10 loudly, while they steadily inhale through their nose.
2. Lick your wrist, let it dry for a few seconds, then sniff the wet area.
3. Scrape some gunk from the back of your tongue using a white plastic spoon, then sniff it.
4. Floss, then smell the debris that you drag up.
5. Breathe through your nose only, and have a friend check to see if your nasal air smells, too.
6. If you wear dentures, take them out and give them a sniff.