How to Tell If You Have Bad Breath? 8 Easy Tests

Dr Shreya Ghosh
Shreya has done BDS. She is a dentist with a mission to increase your knowledge about oral health. She will help you to maintain a good oral hygiene and take care of your teeth and gums through one article at a time.

Do you have a feeling that you have bad breath issue, but you are not sure? Or you don’t face any problems as such, but still, you would like to know if you have bad breath or not?

There are several ways to test bad breath problem at home such as mirror test, home testing kit, wrist test, ask people, etc.


Also, you can visit a dentist who can do more sophisticated tests such as Halimeter test and Gas chromatography to identify bad breath issue.

Tests to identify bad breath problem

1. Ask

Many of us try to smell our breath by cupping our hand close to the nose and then sniffing. But this is a wrong method. In this way, we only smell our hand and not our breath.

Instead, if you notice people maintaining a distance from you while you speak, it could be because of bad breath. Don’t hesitate to ask somebody if you have bad breath.

2. Mirror test

Observe your tongue in the mirror. If there is any coating on the tongue, then it means the bacteria is present on your tongue, and the bad breath is due to bacterial activity. You should clean your tongue daily to avoid such bacterial accumulation.

3. Home testing kit

You can buy a home testing kit from the chemist and use it to test your breath. One version is the pocket-sized kit about the size of chewing gum.

You will need to put a few drops of your saliva, and if the color changes to blue then your breath is not fresh whereas if there is no color change, then you don’t have bad breath

This home kit also comes in handy before an important interview or some gathering. You can test your breath and mask the bad breath with mints or breath spray (this is not a definitive solution and you should visit a dentist later for the cure)

4. Wrist test

Lick the inside of your wrist and let it dry for a minute. Post that smell the area. The inner wrist is not much involved in our day to day activities which is why it is a better method to test for bad breath.

You can do the saliva test on the back of your hand too. If you have halitosis, the sulfur salts transfer to your skin.

5. Bad taste

If you get any bad taste in your mouth after eating a spicy meal or drinking alcohol or sugar-based drink, then it could be due to bad breath.

6. Cotton test

You can take a cotton gauze and wipe the back of your tongue. Sniff the cotton gauze after a minute. If the cotton gauze smells, then it indicates bad breath.

In addition to the smell if the cotton gauze looks yellow, then it means that you have high sulfide production.

7. Dental floss test

You use a dental floss every day to clean your teeth, right? Next time you are flossing smell the floss, and you will get an idea of the odor.

8. Spoon test

Take a spoon and use it to scrape against the back of your tongue gently. If you notice a white coating on the spoon, smell it, and you will get a whiff of bad breath. Whenever you ignore cleaning your tongue, there will be bad breath.

9. Visit the dentist for the accurate diagnosis

After you have checked your breath at home and still are not sure about bad breath, go to your dentist, and he will help with better and more accurate tests. Some of the standard tests are

The bad breath smell test

Your dentist smells your breath, and though this may make you feel awkward, it is a part of their job. Your dentist will ask you to avoid doing certain things such as

  • Avoid food and drinks for 12 hours
  • Avoid garlic, onions and spicy food for 48 hours
  • Any breath spray or mints for 12 hours, and
  • Antibiotics for three weeks before the breath test
  • Avoid smoking

The breath test is quick and inexpensive, but it’s prone to error. There is no set standard against which your dentist can tick your breath. Also, it can be difficult for any health professional to segregate the different bad breaths without making an error.

This test is successful when performed by a specialist. Otherwise, it is better to do this test along with other tests.

Halimeter test

Volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) are the most common cause of bad breath. VSCs smell like rotten eggs. The halimeter is a device which measures the volatile sulfur compounds in breath.

You blow air into the detector via a small opening, and the results appear on an LCD screen. The results vary from no VSCs to intense VSCs activity indicating bad breath.

The test is cheap, accessible and gives quick results. A halimeter score of ≥ 75 ppb is an indication of halitosis.

The halimeter is more reliable than the smell test, but it measures only general levels of sulfide gas. The halimeter isn’t able to identify the exact bad breath causing compound.

If your doctor doesn’t know which compound is the reason for your bad breath, then he will have trouble deciding on treatment. (1)

Gas chromatography

Gas chromatography analyses the chemical composition of bad breath. Due to the chemical analysis, it is possible to identify the cause of bad breath.


Gas chromatography identifies every component such as methyl mercaptans and hydrogen sulfide (primary causes of bad breath). This method will help your dentist plan your treatment accordingly.

The equipment is expensive and immobile which is the disadvantage of this method.

Over to you

There are various methods to test bad breath. If you feel unsure, then take help from your dentist to treat the problem. Do not mask bad breath with breath fresheners. Instead, take steps towards removing the root cause of the problem.


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