If you have the overwhelming suspicion that your breath is funky, chances are you're right. Halitosis is a condition that affects approximately one-quarter to one-half of all Americans at any given time. While worrying about oral odor may make you feel a little neurotic, it's much more likely that you simply really do have bad breath.
A team of Japanese scientists recently looked into this very topic - namely, whether neurotic people who worry about their breath are just getting tricked by their brains or are really suffering from funky breath.
The results should be reassuring for anyone, neurotic or otherwise. A group of oral health experts from the Fukuoka Dental College found that of 79 participants who met the definition of neurotic, about three-quarters really did have bad breath.
Researchers found that though neurotic people occasionally complained of bad breath they didn't have, for the most part these participants really did just have halitosis. Similar studies have found that oral odor can make social anxiety disorder worse. It's unclear how many people are neurotic (especially since the term is rarely used by psychologists anymore), but the National Institutes of Mental Health estimates that 15 million Americans have a social anxiety or phobia.
Rather than letting bad breath keep you shut in at home, it may be preferable to try a specialty breath freshening product, like a rinse or toothpaste. These specially formulated products contain compounds designed to kill bacteria and neutralize odor, all while cleaning teeth and soothing gums.
If you suspect you have halitosis but are too embarrassed to ask someone about it, here's how you can test your breath. Take a white cottonball or swab and gently rub the back of your tongue with it. If the cotton comes away tinged yellow, you probably have bad breath. To be doubly sure, smell the cotton itself.