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Dragon breath or distorted self-image?

Dragon breath or distorted self-image?

I read the other day that “Only the dentist can tell you if you have bad breath.” Now, who are the ad wizards who came up with that one? Some dentist, hurting for patients, must have made it up. How accurate would his “diagnosis” really be? Most people pop a breath mint (at the very least) before they make a visit. Regardless, I can assure you he’s not the only one capable of making the call. Your brother, sister, or spouse will not hesitate to ask you: “Have you been eating rotten fish again?”

No one wants to stink, but there are some people who are downright paranoid about it, thinking they have bad breath when they actually don’t. Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel decided to tackle this smelly issue and concluded that some people have a “self-image” problem. (It used to be called “delusional,” but times change; now it’s “distorted self-image.”)

The researchers conducted a unique (and questionable) clinical experiment. They asked people who were worried about halitosis to assess odors coming from their own mouths, tongues, and saliva. These ratings were then compared to the ratings of an “independent expert.” (Who’d want that job? Probably some starving medical student who got suckered into it for a measly pittance.)

They used the “lick and sniff” method, where the patient licks his wrist and then sniffs it. His reading is then compared to that of a professional sniffer (the aforementioned starving medical student). The results were about what you would expect: The worriers were likely to think they had halitosis when they didn’t, and the non-worriers did not.

Can you believe they use serious medical research funds for this kind of stuff?

Action to take:

In general, the solution to normal, less-than-rosy breath is to water pick your teeth (put an ounce of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in the water) after breakfast.

There is one situation where the dentist is your best choice for curing halitosis quickly. If you have had root canal surgery, you could have an abscess in the treated tooth and not feel the pain ordinarily associated with an abscessed tooth because the nerve has been removed. In children and adolescents, foul breath can stem from infected tonsils or adenoidal tissue-these problems should be treated by a general practitioner. RH


“Self-Perception of Breath Odor,” Journal of the American Dental Association 2001; 132(5): 621-626

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