Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Chicago Daily Herald


By Burt Constable
Chicago Daily Herald (30 April 2002)

Not that we are starved for entertainment in our house, but my youngsters sometimes amuse themselves by playing a game they call “Smell My Breath.”

Each boy takes a turn breathing in his brothers’ faces so that they can guess what food he most recently ate. Answers range from pancakes to oranges, chocolate to cinnamon, bananas to broccoli.

My attempts to join the fun are met with childish laughter. I am the gimme-putt of “Smell My Breath.”

“Daddy’s breath smells like coffee,” my boys giggle. “It always smells like coffee.”

Well, that’s not the opinion of the “Bad Breath Guru” manning the breath tester Monday in the aisle of a Cub Foods in Arlington Heights.

“Yours is pretty good,” declares Dr. Harold Katz, founder of The California Breath Clinics, noting the paltry single-digit score my breath registers on his Halimeter® is about the same as managed by the doctor’s breath, which he notes, “is pretty good all the time.”

“The original machine was built for industrial use in the mining industry,” Katz says of the Halimeter®, which presumably would alert Cub shoppers if my mouth were filling the toothpaste aisle with poison gas. “It measures sulfur compounds in parts per billion.”

A score of 70 indicates an offensive “rotten egg” odor, and anything higher than 120 is a sign of a real breath problem. The highest rating Katz has recorded was 1,800, from the mouth of a physician who smoked two packs of cigarettes and drank two bottles of wine a day, and sought help after discovering that patients weren’t sticking with him because of his unbearably stinky breath. (Given his alcohol use, I suspect bad breath might not have been the entire problem.)

Almost everyone with bad breath can be cured, says Katz, who says he dedicated himself to the field after his 13-year-old daughter came home complaining that her friends said she had bad breath. (That girl is now a 22-year-old certified public accountant with certifiably clean breath, Katz adds.)

While foods such as garlic and onions can make your breath stinky, the source of chronic bad breath is the bacteria in your throat and on your tongue, Katz says.

“Your tongue is like a carpet,” he says, explaining how you can vacuum the part that shows and still not get rid of the odor. Your mouth needs the bacteria to break down proteins. But, by adding oxygen, you can eliminate the odors, Katz says. Oxidizing compounds are a staple of his line of products, now available in Cub Foods and other stores, and at his Web site.

Breath aids that contain alcohol, sugar or even soap (as many mouthwashes, toothpastes and breath mints do) may mask the odor briefly, but dry out the mouth and create an environment that causes more odors, Katz says.

“Sucking on candy is not going to get rid of bad breath. It’s going to feed the bacteria,” he says.

One of the best ways to combat bad breath is to drink water.

“Saliva is nature’s way of controlling these odors,” Katz says, offering drooling babies and their sweet baby’s breath as evidence.

Actor Clark Gable, on the other hand, was reported to have horrible breath, says Katz, who adds that his L.A. clinic has celebrity clients, including one who sends her limo driver to pick up her purchase.

Bad breath is embarrassing, which is why Katz’s Web site offers to send anonymous, but “very nice,” letters to people who need to be told they have a problem: “We even had one for Mother’s Day, ‘Would you tell my mother she has bad breath?'”

The old TV commercials that talked about the horrors of halitosis (delivering the message that even a pretty girl won’t find a husband if she has nasty breath) aren’t that far from the truth, says Katz, whose clinics have treated more than 30,000 people and sold products online to 100,000 customers worldwide. Katz can tell stories of relationships and careers that hinged entirely on one’s breath.

“Offensive odors mean something isn’t good for you,” Katz says, explaining how cavemen used the sense of smell to narrow their culinary alternatives. “If you’re interviewing someone for a job and they have bad breath, your first reaction is, ‘This is not good.'”

People also don’t want to smell “a medicine cabinet,” Katz says, adding that the perfect breath is simply “the smell of nothingness.”

Of course, breath that smells like nothing is going to wreck my sons’ “Smell My Breath” game, and push us that much closer to ordering cable TV.