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South China Morning Post

Dare you take the fresh breath test?

By Hazel Parry
South China Morning Post (28 June 2004)

Taking a fresh breath test is a little like being breathalysed by police after just one sip of alcohol. You’re sure you’ll be OK. But {hellip} what if? What if the machine’s wrong? What if you really do have a problem?

The Halimeter—a machine that tells you things even best friends may not—is not unlike a breathalyser. You blow into it, it measures the offending particles in your breath and tells you whether you’re over the limit or not.

Only in this case, the offending particles (per billion parts of breath) are volatile sulphur compounds—the nasty smelling bits produced by the bacteria on the back of your tongue.

I took the plunge and took the Halimeter test at the privately run Smile Spa in Central, which carries out fresh breath treatments and tooth whitening.

First, I filled in a form about my medical history. This was because some medical complaints or medication can affect your breath. Then came the crunch.

The halimeter, which was invented in the US, looks like an old-style radio with a dial, a window with a digital reading and a tube. The dentist takes three readings via a straw inserted into the tube: one from the middle of your mouth and one from each side.

I took a deep breath, held it and then blew and watched as the number on the box shot up, wavered and settled on a figure. Then, followed the next two readings. It was over in a matter of minutes, and I was presented with my vital statistics: 52-32-82.

Anything over 150, I was told, would constitute a problem big enough for people close to me to notice. A reading about 1,000, and even people who weren’t particularly close—such as fellow passengers in a lift—would suffer.

One of my readings was slightly high, but this was probably because I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything in the past six hours—which exacerbates oral bacteria production.

If the readings had been high, the Smile Spa would have followed up with tests, and recommended how to fix the problem.

But the good news was that I’d passed. I left armed with some alcohol-free mouth wash, a tongue scraper and toothpaste. And I breathed a (fresh) sigh of relief.