Bad breath stinks—literally and figuratively. It’s caused by poor dental hygiene, health conditions, pungent foods, smoking, medications, and even dry mouth. A good friend or family member will hopefully let you know if you have bad breath, but if you aren’t sure, we’re here to be your (well-meaning) honest friend.
When rank breath rears its ugly head, it can affect both your personal and professional relationships. Your boss might cut that one-on-one meeting short, your partner is probably not turned on, and your friends might have briefer face-to-face convos with you. The first line of defense against bad breath is to brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily to prevent food particles from hanging in your mouth and teeth, which promotes bacteria that causes bad breath.
That’s just the beginning of what you can do to prevent this common social faux pas. Whether your bad breath is due to everyday factors, like that morning coffee you’ve been sipping till lunch, or if it’s a chronic health issue, consider these solutions.
If you ate a spicy sandwich at lunch, those scents can linger on your breath for a few hours. Keep a pack of mints in your desk drawer—and another in your briefcase or backpack—to mute stinky breath until you can brush your teeth.
Antibacterial mouth rinses can also help reduce bacteria. Look for an alcohol-free mouthwash that kills bacteria and won’t dry out your mouth. It should have ingredients like menthol, eucalyptol, or thymol, instead of alcohol.
The polyphenols in tea have been shown to have antimicrobial and deodorizing effects, so sip green tea after a meal to reduce the concentration of gases in your mouth that contribute to bad breath. Just remember that green tea has caffeine, so don’t drink it after dinner or it could interfere with your sleep.
As if we needed to tell you one more reason to ramp up your fruit and veggie intake: Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables that require a lot of chewing are said to help to clean out the teeth. Simply munch on some vitamin C-rich foods—like strawberries, oranges, and spinach—to help kill bacteria.
You’re not doing your physique any favors by inhaling sweets on the regular, and you’ll spare your breath if you cut these out as well, since eating a lot of sugary foods has been linked with bad breath.
When your body isn’t producing enough saliva to help remove the particles that cause bad breath, those stinky particles linger. It’s one of the reasons you have “morning breath,” since you aren’t producing as much saliva while you sleep. Stay hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of water daily. Keep in mind that some medications—like antihistamines and decongestants—can also cause dry mouth.
You should be swapping out your old toothbrush for a new one every three months, particularly when you notice it becoming frayed. Do it on the first day of the next season so you don’t forget.
If you have temporary bad breath from an offending food like onion slices on your sandwich or a garlicky dinner, munch on some fresh parsley for a bit to reduce the odor. (Then make sure you check your teeth for green leaves.)
Sure, it sounds weird, but brushing your tongue helps remove plaque and bacteria that build up on it. You can do this gently every time you brush your teeth, or buy a tongue scraper to remove the coating on your tongue that could be contributing to bad breath.
Yep, you’ve heard how bad smoking is before, but we’re going to keep repeating it. Bad breath is certainly one of the top turnoffs associated with smoking, so throw out the cigarettes and make a plan to stop smoking for good.