What does it take to be a professional connoisseur of bad breath, also known as an organoleptic judge (OJ)? Believe it or not, you need more than a working sniffer and a strong stomach. OJs are rigorously trained and tested, and not all of them make the grade.
The most scientific test for halitosis is the halimeter, a machine that measures levels of volatile sulfur compounds on breath. If concentrations are too high, dental health professionals usually recommend flossing more often and using a better mouthwash (one that's alcohol-free).
But we can't only use machines to measure oral odor. After all, humans, not robots, are the ones who suffer when someone has a case of bad breath. Hence, we need people who are trained judges of halitosis.
Enter the OJs, an elite group of olfactory experts.
According to Susan Nachnani, the director of the University Health Resources Group in Culver City, California, OJs aren't just any poor saps off the street. Typically, they are dentists, microbiologists and periodontologists.
In a report published in the journal Electronic Noses and Olfaction 2000, Nachnani explained that some people are better suited than others to judge the bouquet of halitosis.
She pointed to a study published in the Journal of Breath Research, which found that younger women tend to have the best sense of smell. A similar investigation, which appeared in the same journal, added that older dentists tend to make poorer OJs, and not just because the sense of smell declines with age. The study pointed out that oral health professionals who are blasted with bad breath every day essentially become immune to the smell.
And lest you think any of this is unscientific, keep in mind that, to become an OJ, you usually have to pass two smell-based standardized exams: the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test and the Butanol Threshold Test.