How do you know when you have bad breath? Generally, you or someone you know smells it - though it is often a safe bet to just assume you have it. After all, an article in the Journal of Dental research estimates that at least half of all Americans have halitosis. But how do doctors know when you have bad breath? They use several methods, not all of which sound pleasant.
One way to measure a patient's level of oral odor - a method that's sure to have a dental researcher asking for a raise - is the organoleptic technique. Simply put, this means smelling a person's breath and then rating it on a personal scale.
An article in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association describes the method. A tube is threaded through a hole in a screen, and the participant is asked to blow into it. A physician at the other end of the tube holds it their nostrils and inhales. Afterwards, the expert rates the breath. This should be repeated on two or three separate days, the article emphasizes.
Why the screen? It lets patients think they are blowing into a machine, which may reduce their anxiety about it.
Rather than going to such elaborate - yet undeniably scientific - lengths to see if you have bad breath, it is easier to apply a cottonball to the back of your tongue and then sniff it. If it carries an odor, you may need to rinse with a specialty breath freshener.