Halitosis, or bad breath, is a deal breaker for anyone who hopes to get close to someone. This can be troublesome on first dates, first dances, or first impressions and may not lead to subsequent interactions unless the person afflicted with malodorous breath has much better qualities. If you care about someone, rest assured that you probably will not hear it from him or her. You probably will not hear about it from friends or family, either, unless their desires to help you outweigh the discomfort of hurting you. Many people do not like to hurt the feelings of those for whom they care, and can’t ever find a way to tell the person, even if he or she asks.
According to Wikipedia, of the people who suffer from bad breath odor, about 85 percent of the cases stem from a problem in the mouth — often inadequate dental hygiene. The remaining 15 percent can be traced to problems of the stomach, esophagus, throat, lungs, sinuses and nose. Bad breath may affect 50 percent of the population.
I was in a restaurant the other day, and, while looking for a table, I overheard a conversation between two men. One man said, “I never brush my teeth. I might remember to brush them once a week but usually I don’t.” The fact that he would admit to something like that was arresting, but I found his declaration so disgusting that I nearly lost my appetite. Yes, I understand that it may be an inconvenience and that it is a real task for the lazy, but it also is abundantly clear to everyone else how little attention you pay to your mouth. Don’t let that harm your social interactions. I would not be surprised if many people follow a similar schedule. If you think you are cute enough to overcompensate, or that the person you are on the inside is all that matters, or even that your aging spouse has diminishing olfactory function, think again. Even long-term relationships can suffer from poor hygiene, so don’t be lazy.
Assuming that you are otherwise healthy, it is important to note that changes take place in the mouth as we age. If we do not maintain biannual dental cleanings, plaque builds in our mouths between our teeth and gums, and decaying food and other matter let off an unpleasant stench. Other contributors are gum disease, tooth decay, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. However, bad breath, although unpleasant for everyone, is the least of one’s worries in reality, since poor dental hygiene can affect the heart over time as well as other precious organs. Regular physicals, dental visits every six months, AND at least daily meticulous hygiene are important in order to keep those you hold dear from wanting you to hold them a lot less frequently.
Social dancing, such as ballroom, is a very important skill to learn for a number of reasons. However, your dental hygiene is equally important in these settings. I have seen people literally run from others who had bad breath, and spend entire nights coming up with excuses in order to avoid them. At most dances, you will discover a bowl of mints located near the dance floor and that is because a lot of people have bad breath and everyone finds it unpleasant.
Here are some tips for ensuring that your mouth doesn’t give others a kiss of death:
- Brush your teeth. This should be done at least once or twice a day, if not after every meal. Electronic toothbrushes are excellent, as they often do a better job of cleaning and some have the option of turning off if you are pressing too hard. Keep in mind that you should wait at least an hour after consuming something acidic, as the acids soften your tooth enamel and brushing at this time can harm your teeth. If you consume a fruit smoothie, you might rinse your mouth with water afterward, just to rid your mouth of remaining sugar particles.
- Brush your tongue. A lot of bacteria reside on your tongue, especially at the back of the tongue. Bacteria can build on the tongue in the absence of saliva, as in times when one is sleeping, hence morning breath. You can brush your tongue with a tooth brush, tongue scraper, or even the back of a spoon. I prefer just a toothbrush all over my tongue and all the way back, as well as on the sides.
- Floss your teeth. This should be done at least daily and be sure to heavily floss behind all of your teeth in the very back, as well as those hard-to-reach areas between all of your molars. Gently floss by using a “C” motion. This is good for your teeth and gums.
- Use a water flosser. A water flosser is a device that ejects pressurized water from a wand that is placed between the teeth and around the gums. The use of a water flosser, in addition to and not instead of dental floss, will help ensure that the remaining hard-to-reach areas are devoid of odor-causing particles. I look forward to this routine, as I find it very pleasant and relaxing to clean and massage my teeth and gums. There are numerous brands of water flossers, and some devices are waterproof/cordless and are great to use in the shower. You can add mouthwash to the reservoir along with water, but be sure to rinse out the reservoir and valve after each use or the mouthwash residue may gunk up the device and weaken performance over time.
- Use mouthwash. There are a lot of different kinds and you should find one that suits your preference. I always enjoyed the pleasant taste of Scope, but I also have found that I like Listerine as well.
- Use gum or mints. You may not need to use gum or mints if you are practicing proper hygiene. Nevertheless, it is smart to always carry some with you in case they are needed.
- Give yourself a test. When in doubt, you can breathe into your hand and smell, or lick your clean wrist, and smell the area as you are letting it dry. If you have bad breath, your wrist will reflect the odor as it is drying. Of course, this should not take place in public!
- Maintain biannual dental visits. In my opinion, yearly X-rays are not necessary and probably should be taken every 5-10 years unless there is a specific concern. This is an opinion, not medical advice. However, dental cleanings twice a year, or every six months, are very necessary. They keep your teeth clean, reduce the likelihood of bad breath, and contribute to overall good health. They also alert you if there is an upcoming issue.
- Maintain yearly physicals. Yearly workups with your primary care doctor are always a good thing to do. They are more important if you have done all of the above and you cannot pinpoint the cause of your bad breath. There may be an underlying issue that is at the root of the halitosis. Fortunately, most cases can be solved with proper hygiene.
- Take a hint. If someone offers you a mint, or much more importantly, a water flosser as a gift, take a hint! People don’t want to hurt your feelings, so it is your responsibility to take care of your problem and have it addressed properly. If your relationship dissolved or people are sitting farther away from you, there might be something to it. People rarely want to be unkind, but it is truly unpleasant to be close to someone who emits a very bad odor.
Another tip I would like to include is to follow a plant-based diet. It won’t take care of your bad breath necessarily, though it might, but it will contribute to optimal health. So, practice proper etiquette and care for your relationships by caring for your mouth and overall health. Everything in your life depends on it!
Danica De La Mora