Knowing that washboard abs and a body-fat count lower than the inflation rate will get you only so far, body-conscious Californians have found a new fixation: their breath. “Fresh breath” centers have been springing up across the state to treat the legions who suffer from halitosis. According to the California Dental Association, “California is at the forefront of halitosis treatment.” An office visit begins with the Halimeter, which measures the level of bacteria in the mouth–or your propensity to smell like rotten eggs. The average malodorous patient scores about 90 parts per billion on the Hal. By the time a reading reaches the 400 range, we’re talking glass partition. Most dentists also conduct a full exam, since bad breath can often be caused by serious problems like gum disease. Then come the tongue scrapers, irrigators, and special toothpastes and rinses. The great culprit in halitosis is not the garlic-and-anchovy pizza but bacteria in the mouth that produce sulfurous gases. Most of the special breath-cleaning products contain chlorine dioxide, which neutralizes the gases and reduces dry mouth (where bacteria breed). Californians are not alone in fighting this form of air pollution. Clinics charging $55 to $500 for treatment are opening nationwide at the rate of one a month. “People are finally coming out of the closet about their breath,” says Dr. Anthony Dailley, a dentist who sees about 40 patients a week at his recently opened Center for Breath Treatment in San Francisco. Soon we’ll all breathe easier.
— Betsy Streisand