In the name of science, researchers sniff morning breath
SUMMARY: It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. After all, smelling morning breath is a scientific pursuit.
Posted: December 21, 2011
And you thought you had a bad job. Believe it or not, plenty of scientists are employed in the unenviable job of inhaling bad breath and rating it on a scale of stink. If that weren't gross enough, some researchers actually have to focus on a specific kind of halitosis, as in a recently published investigation into the stench of morning breath.
You read that right. As part of a study included in the journal Archives of Oral Biology, Dutch researchers from NIZO Food Research and the University of Groningen had to subject themselves to sample after sample of morning breath. Fortunately for all noses involved, though, the bulk of the sniffing was done by machine.
In the study, scientists asked volunteers to cultivate morning breath. This meant avoiding brushing their teeth for three straight days. Researchers also asked that participants avoid eating yogurt, onions or garlic, since these might affect the outcome. (If you ask us, morning breath is usually rank no matter what.)
After waking up, volunteers collected three samples - one immediately, another before breakfast and a final sample after eating.
Scientists then got a nice whiff of each sample while putting the samples through a gas chromatography machine, which measures levels of different odorous molecules.
The team found that the three most common stinky compounds in morning breath are hydrogen sulphide, methyl mercaptan and dimethyl sulphide. These three substances smell like rotten eggs, stinky cheese and sour cabbage, respectively.
No wonder so many people use specialty breath freshening products to clear up morning breath as soon as they catch wind of it.
This wasn't the first study to subject researchers to bad breath in the name of progress. For example, a report published in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology recounts how a pair of scientists used only their noses to rank the halitosis of 62 separate volunteers. Yikes.