Thursday, April 5, 2007
What I do for a living
People call me Mr. Bad Breath to my face, other things behind my back ("Honey, do you know what Mel Rosenberg actually does for a living? He sticks his nose into people's mouths and smells their breath!"). When I was that pudgy kid growing up in Ottawa, I originally wanted to be an astronomer. But I ended up doing my Ph.D. in microbiology. When I joined the dental faculty of Tel Aviv University as a young lecturer in 1982, I wanted to do something new, but didn't know precisely what. At the time we were commencing work on our two-phase mouthwash project and someone told me to check whether it worked against bad breath. I went to the library and found that very few academic scientists (Joe Tonzetich at UBC, Ken Yaegaki in Japan, and maybe one or two others) were working on this very common and embarassing problem. I remember coming home that night and telling my wife that I had stumbled onto my scientific future. Indeed, I've been very lucky. We developed a method for measuring the volatile sulfides associated with bad breath (the Halimeter) that is used in laboratories and clinics around the world. In addition, the reformulated two-phase mouthwash (Dentyl pH) has taken off in the UK and is a highly successful product there. I was also fortunate enough to write an article on bad breath for Scientific American in 2002. These days I'm on sabbatical, writing a book on bad breath (following two edited scientific texts) for the public, working on our new website (www.smellwell.com), and trying to get our anti-odor flavor ("Breathanol") into more products in more countries. In August, I'll be joining scientists from around the world at the 7th international conference on breath odor, which will be held in Chicago. This is especially exciting for me as I co-founded this society in 1996 with Prof. Daniel van Steenberghe, and we have watched it grow and develop. These days, Alon Amit and I are working on fixing the entry for bad breath in 'wikipedia'. The current one really stinks (literally as well as figuratively). It will be interesting to see whether they accept a more scientific, less commercial version. Stick around to find out soon.