5 Quick & Easy Bad Breath Tests You Can Do Right Now... As You're Reading This!
By Tomas Caomhanach
Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately!), you can't smell your own bad breath. Even if you cup your hand over your mouth and nose, and take a sniff right after you breath out, you're really only smelling your own hand, not your breath.
That's because, despite the fact that bad breath contains all kinds of nasty stuff that would make you wretch if it came from someone else, the problem usually develops so slowly and so gradually that you simply become used to the smell from yourself. Your body becomes so acclimatized to the specific concentrations of nasty stuff in your bad breath, that you simply don't notice it anymore!
That's not true for other people though! They absolutely notice it. Even if they have bad breath themselves, their body is only acclimatized to the specific concentrations of nasty smells they themselves emit - not the stuff you exude! In most cases, people only become aware of having a bad breath problem by the reactions of those around them. If you notice people suddenly stepping back when you come near, it's a good indicator that something is wrong.
That's a pretty embarrassing way to find out though. So, if you think you have bad breath, but don't want to go around asking people if you can breathe on them to find out for sure, you might be interested in some simple bad breath tests you can do right now...
1. The Hand Test:
Probably the easiest and best-known way is to simply lick the back of your hand, and let it dry for 5 or 10 seconds. Then sniff it. This works because you've transferred some of the 'stuff' that makes your breath smell on to your hand, while removing your actual breath (which you can't smell) from the equation.
2. The Gauze Test:
You could also wipe your tongue with a large piece of gauze or cotton wool, and let that dry in the same way as above. This works for the same reason (as licking your hand) but has the added advantage of allowing you to check for a yellowish stain on it. If you notice that, it's a very strong indicator of a bad breath problem.
3. The Spoon Test:
Take a regular spoon from your kitchen, turn it upside down, and gently scrape it along the surface of your tongue. Again, let it dry and smell it. This also works for the same reason as above.
4. The Floss Test:
You can also take a piece of dental floss (or dental tape) and run it between some of your back teeth. Let that dry too, and then smell it. Although, in virtually all cases, the (bad breath) problem doesn't actually originate from the teeth, there is still enough 'stuff' that produces the bad smell between them to give a good indication of a problem. This method will also give you an idea of what your bad breath smells like to other people.
5. The Mirror Test:
Look into a mirror, and stick your tongue out as far as you can. Does your tongue have a white coating on it? The intensity of this coating will give a reasonably good idea of the intensity of your bad breath. Also, in general, the farther back (towards your throat) that white coating extends, the worse the problem.
Also, another good indicator of a bad breath problem is if different foods and drinks (like dairy foods, alcohol, soda, and sugar) affect your taste. This includes alcohol-based mouthwash.
It's possible to undergo a very accurate scientific test at a specialist bad breath clinic too. There, doctors will use special instruments, such as a 'Halimeter', to examine and classify the chemical compounds present in your breath. However, these will cost you several hundred (and, in some cases, several thousand) dollars, and are unlikely to be covered by any health or dental insurance plans. They also have other drawbacks too: Certain foods such as garlic and onions produce sulfur in the breath for as long as 48 hours and can result in false readings. The instruments are also very sensitive to alcoholic drinks, so much so that even using alcohol-bases mouthwashes will give inaccurate results. They also lose sensitivity over time anyway, and require periodic recalibration to remain accurate.
While all of the above are excellent ways to test for bad breath, the simple truth is, if you think you have bad breath, then you probably do: As mentioned earlier, most people become aware of the problem by the reaction of those around them. Humans are highly social animals and, as such, can detect a negative reaction in another person from a mile away (even if, as is the case with bad breath, that reaction is involuntary). If people turn away... step back... and cover their nose and mouth when you're near them, then the above tests probably aren't even necessary... you can make a pretty safe assumption that you do have a problem!