Which gender is more likely to have bad breath? The question may seem straightforward to you, but ask your coworkers, friends or family, and you'll probably find that no one can agree on the answer. So who is more prone to chronic halitosis, men or women?
Well, it depends on who you ask and how you define "bad breath."
Consider this situation: You've asked more than 100 university students if they suffer from chronic halitosis. Overall, more men say they do than women. Does this mean that males are more likely to have dragon breath?
Maybe, but then again, maybe not. You see, this was an actual survey conducted in 2006 at Brazil's University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. It is enlightening, sure, but probably not definitive. At best, what it tells us is that young males are more likely to report having chronic halitosis. In Brazil. At university.
And consider this complication: Other surveys come to totally different conclusions.
- In a study published in the journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, researchers asked adults (average age = 35 years) if they thought they had bad breath. Of those who said yes, 60 percent were women.
- A report in the Tanzania Dental Journal found that men and women admitted to having halitosis in almost exactly the same numbers.
Clearly, one of the big problems is the survey model. You can ask anyone you like whether they think they have bad breath, but the matter of whether they actually have oral odor is best left up to a halimeter or similar scientific measuring device.
Other complicating factors in the studies above could be variables like age, nationality, education level and income, all of which might skew the results.
And of course, even gender itself may have an influence on whether people are aware of their oral odor. Lisa Scottoline, a columnist for the Philadelphia Enquirer, recently addressed this very subject in an article about bad breath's gender divide.
"I try to resist the urge to make everything about gender, but everything is about gender. Almost," She wrote. "In my experience, men who have terrible breath never know it, while women who have great breath worry about it constantly."
Scottoline added that, in general, women may be more likely to be insecure about their appearance and scent. What do you think?
And as for definitive word on which gender is stinkier, we're still waiting for a scientific, halimeter based American study. Until then, we can keep pointing fingers, or we can make peace by using specialty breath fresheners.