Dentists have to smell bad breath every day, so it's not as if they're unaware of it. Few polls exist on dentists' feelings about halitosis, but we can't imagine that many of them enjoy smelling it. Possibly the only benefit of sniffing their patients' oral odor is that, in some cases, it may help them diagnose certain dental problems, like tooth decay or periodontal disease.
However, a newly developed automated test may be able to do the sniffing for them. It's called a colorimetric chair-side test, and it could potentially take a bit of the stink out of dentistry.
Colorimetry made easy
As a chemical analysis method, colorimetry isn't very complicated. Basically, a light is shined into a liquid solution, and a pre-calibrated meter measures the wavelengths that emerge. The results can tell specialists what compounds are present.
So what liquid can dentists test in a colorimetric chair-side test for halitosis? Why, spit, of course.
In a recently published proof-of-concept study, researchers from Belgium and Italy collected saliva samples from 100 volunteers, all of them with varying levels of bad breath. The authors then analyzed the mouth moisture for traces of amines, which are ammonia-based molecules that are the second-most common compounds in oral odor. (The most plentiful are the ever-odiferous volatile sulfur compounds, or VSCs.)
They found that a little spit is all you need
Researchers determined that even a small sample of saliva was enough for the chair-side test to determine a patient's level of bad breath, since amine levels tend to mirror those of VSCs.
This means that someday soon, oral health experts may not have to pay any attention to halitosis at all. However, you still will, which is why specialty breath fresheners are always a must.