Diagnosis of Bad Breath
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Diagnosis of Bad Breath

12 Nov, 2015

Diagnosis of Bad Breath

Once, a diagnosis of bad breath relied solely upon another person informing us that our breath was offensive - a family member, friend, doctor, dentist, or even a complete stranger. In some cases, people came to the conclusion on their own (still true today) and were not always right. It is only in recent years that medical specialists have taken the problem seriously enough to even try to develop an objective means of measuring oral malodor.
Tests for halitosis today have greatly improved, and though some of the old methods are still used, specialists have at least three measurement techniques to choose from. Patients who are serious about having their breath tested and getting some help with the problem can visit clinics that are equipped to do the testing and get a proper diagnosis of bad breath.
The most familiar method for assessing oral malodor, which attempts to achieve an objective result, is known as organoleptic measurement. The most subjective of current tests for halitosis, organoleptic measurement involves having the patient blow through a straw while an experienced examiner sits at a specified distance and rates the level of malodor on an established scale. The difficulty with this diagnosis of bad breath is that human smell sensitivity naturally varies from time to time and the results are therefore not always repeatable.
An instrument called a halimeter is gaining in popularity. With the halimeter, the diagnosis of bad breath is made by placing a straw or tube connected to the instrument in the open mouth and measuring the volatile sulfur compounds that travel down the tube to the halimeter with exhaled air. Volatile sulfur compounds are produced by anaerobic bacteria in the mouth, and are indicative of halitosis, but other compounds in room air and exhaled breath that are not related to bad breath can be measured by the halimeter and affect results. In addition, like most tests for halitosis, this method does not differentiate between odor produced in the mouth and odor that originates elsewhere in the body.
A third method, and the most recent of the practical tests for halitosis, is called gas chromatography. This procedure also detects sulfur, but it can tell whether the sulfur is coming from the mouth or from another source. Once an expensive, difficult laboratory test requiring specialized equipment and training, people involved in diagnosis of bad breath are moving toward portable user-friendly equipment for gas chromatography that may revolutionize the diagnosis of bad breath.

R. Drysdale is a freelance writer with more than 25 years experience as a health care professional. She is a contributing editor to Diagnosis of Bad Breath at Bad Breath Remedies, a blog dedicated to the treatment of bad breath.

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