How to Deal With Someone's Bad Breath

So your date, your boss, or whoever's talking to you has terrible breath. For whatever reason, you don't want to breach etiquette and just tell them to fix it. Here are some creative ways to drop the hint.


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    Offer the person a unique gum or a mint. Get one for yourself, then offer them one, as if you're just being polite by sharing. If they turn you down, say "You sure? I love this flavor. You should try it!" This is especially effective if you carry candy with you that has an unusual flavor, because you can use that as a reason to pressure the person if they don't get it: "You have to try these popcorn-flavored jelly beans."
    • Do this simultaneously: place a mint in their hand while saying "here," incline your head toward them slightly and give them a polite but firm smile. Then immediately go on with your conversation (about something else).
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    If the person is your significant other, use kissing as positive reinforcement: "I love to kiss right after you chew that mint gum. It feels so minty and cool." You can even make it into a playful little ritual--kiss them every time they chew gum, eat candy, or just finish brushing their teeth. They might catch on and learn to use that as a way to hint for a kiss!
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    Offer the person a snack or drink. Sometimes people get bad breath because their mouth is dry. Any drink or snack will help, even a glass of water. Just don't offer them any food or drink that might make their breath worse, like milk or anything with garlic or onion in it.
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    Pretend you have bad breath. Say something like "Ugh, I have some weird breath right now. I haven't eaten for several hours, maybe that's why. Do you have any gum?" Sometimes this will make the other person wonder about their own breath, and perhaps use whatever remedy they give to you.
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    Find a way to talk about dental hygiene. The objective is to raise their consciousness about dental health. You should judge your conversation on how well you know the person.
    • I always forget to floss. My dentist says I should though, and I've noticed that when I floss regularly, I don't get bad breath as often. Do you floss?
    • Have you ever used one of those tongue scraper things? Apparently the bacteria that causes bad breath sits mostly on your tongue. Do you know how to use one? I've never tried.
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    Lead by example. Practice good dental hygiene in front of this person as much as possible, and act like you're assuming they do the same. After eating, for example, excuse yourself to brush your teeth. Carry some travel sized mouthwash and floss with you. Ask them if they want some.
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    Practice Radical Honesty. Think about it first. How would you like to be told? Simply saying "Your breath is bad/weird/funky. Here, have some gum." is embarrassing and offensive. Let them see you checking your breath, and then offer the gum. If they take the hint, fine. If not, just go on.
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    Water is the solution. As someone said above, a dry/dehydrated mouth will cause bad breath. Water is usually a better solution than gum or a mint, even. Not any snack or drink will do, as something with sugar will make things worse. Constantly have a water bottle with you and offer your companion a drink. If you don't have a water bottle, tell your companion, "I'm really thirsty. Come with me to get a drink from that water fountain." They'll probably take one too.


  • Anyone may get terribly embarrassed when discovering they have bad breath.
  • A lot of people with chronic bad breath know they have it, and yet are unable -- in spite of great effort and attention to dental hygiene -- to get rid of it. They know you are dropping hints and at that point it is just as rude and pointless as hinting to a wheelchair bound person that she should stand up and walk onto the bus so that you don't have to wait for the chair lift that is inconveniencing you.
  • Any matter of personal hygiene can be sensitive. Tact and discretion must be used.
  • Bad breath may be a sign of a dental or other health problem.
  • Many instances of bad breath have nothing to do with oral hygiene -- mostly it is caused by sinus problems

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