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A mechanism to increase chemosensory perception in humans?
Historically human olfaction has been underestimated. There is considerable recent evidence that olfaction is biologically important in social and emotional contexts, including mate selection and kin recognition. Observations of humans in social contexts show that some humans sniff while clenching their teeth. This study documented the prevalence of this behavior in a surveyed population and investigated the physiological aspects of this behavior in a distinct population. The airflow, duration and volume of a sniff were measured while sniffing and teeth clenching and during sniffing alone. In the surveyed population 13% reported clenching their teeth while sniffing others in social contexts, 18% in familial contexts and 14% in sexual contexts. Physiologically, sniffing while teeth clenching resulted in an increase in airflow for 52% of the population, while 43% experienced an increase when sniffing alone. It appears some humans display this behavior, which may enhance olfactory perception by increasing the airflow of the sniff.