Halimeter For Bad Breath Diagnosis

Many specialists in oral malodor now use the halimeter®, by Interscan Corporation to assess patients who consult them about a breath problem. Simple but ingenious, the device draws in a sample of mouth air through a straw, analyzes it for certain gases and provides a readout of the gases quantified in parts per billion (ppb). This scientific breath analysis is based on the knowledge that the foul odors associated with halitosis are usually volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) produced by anaerobic bacteria (microorganisms that live in places where there is little or no oxygen) breaking down proteins in the mouth. Although almost everyone has some VSC in his or her mouth, the gases are only noticeable to others at levels of about 200 ppb and higher. A quantitative measurement of VSC is, therefore, very helpful in diagnosing and monitoring halitosis.

Until recently, the organoleptic assessment of halitosis was the standard method of diagnosing and grading breath malodor. In this procedure, an examiner asks the patient to blow air through a straw and assesses the severity of the odor based on a point scale. Though every effort is made to obtain objective results, the grade is unavoidably based on an individual’s subjective impressions. Results of this type of testing are described as having low specificity and reproducibility (Lee, PPC and WY Mak. “The Aetiology and Treatment of Oral Halitosis: An Update.” Hong Kong Medical Journal Vol.10 No. 6, 2004: 414-418), meaning that the procedure doesn’t test for specific odor sources, and that if the test is repeated on the same patient, different results are often obtained. The advent of the halimeter® for bad breath diagnosis is a clear advance in this difficult medical challenge.

There are few disadvantages to the halimeter® for bad breath diagnosis. One is that the cost of the instrument and the expertise required to operate it mean that the patient must consult a medical professional in order to have the test done (also true for the organoleptic assessment of halitosis). Though this may involve some cost, it does provide a professional assessment of the patient’s condition and increases the probability that a serious underlying medical problem will be caught early, as well as insuring accurate test results. In addition, the halimeter® does not measure all of the foul smelling gases associated with oral malodor, only the three common ones, so a rare case where other gases are involved may go undetected.

In order to get accurate results from the halimeter® for bad breath diagnosis, patients must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, chewing gum, using oral hygiene products, or sucking candies for a specified period of time before the procedure. It is important to follow the instructions of the person performing the test. The procedure is quick, painless, and carries virtually no risk. As a more accurate alternative to the organoleptic assessment of halitosis, it is likely to become the standard method of measuring oral malodor.