How to Tell Someone They Have Bad Breath (Without Making it Awkward)!


Ever had to tell someone their breath stinks? If you’ve been there and done that, you know there are very few situations as awkward as that. No one likes stinky breath and definitely does not appreciate being told that they have it. So, how do you go about it? Well, you don’t have to be too direct and awkward, unless you want to put yourself and the other person in an uncomfortable spot. You could take a different approach that’s less harsh yet refreshingly honest and conveys the message without hurting anyone’s feelings.

However, before you make any assumptions or learn how to tell someone they have bad breath without offending them, let’s first understand some of the common reasons why someone’s mouth smell -

Poor oral health routine:

  • Most people think that brushing teeth once a day i.e. in the morning is enough. But that’s far from the truth. It’s essential to follow a good oral hygiene routine that includes brushing properly twice a day, rinsing with a mouthwash, and flossing twice a day. Neglecting brushing at night and flossing can lead to the accumulation of plaque. Further, the bacteria present in the mouth interact with tiny leftover food particles hidden between the teeth and not only cause teeth damage but also put you at a risk of halitosis.

Dry mouth:

  • Reduced saliva production or dry mouth can also cause bad breath. Certain medications can lead to dry mouth too, though it happens mainly if you aren’t adequately hydrated. People are also experiencing bad breath under their masks due to the accumulation of sweat and bacteria in the mouth, which leads to reduced saliva production. Saliva is important as it naturally cleanses the mouth and washes away the bacteria.

Pungent foods:

  • Certain foods like onions, garlic and spices can also contribute to stinky breath, especially if you consume them at night. Surprisingly, the popular Keto diet is also known to cause halitosis.

Not visiting the dentist:

  • If you skip going to the dentist or getting your teeth professionally cleaned periodically then it can lead to bad breath over time. Going to the dentist can help diagnose and treat many gum and teeth diseases that contribute to halitosis as well.

Bad breath is normal and can happen to anyone. Now that judgement is out of the window, here’s how you can effectively handle a stinky situation without coming across as a rude person -

  • Offer them a chewing gum: Here is how to tell someone they have bad breath without actually having to tell them- offer them a piece of gum super casually. It could be as simple as popping a chewing gum in your own mouth and then sharing one with them too. They don’t even have to know that you offered them a mint because they have bad breath. Moreover, it will fix the problem while ensuring that they don’t feel awkward or singled out. But don’t offer or chew gums that are loaded with sugar as it can worsen the situation.

  • Pretend that your breath is bad too: Here’s another trick how to tell a friend they have bad breath discreetly- you’re comfortable with this, you can go ahead and pretend for a bit that your breath stinks too. Let’s say you’re in a situation with a friend or family member where they’ve eaten foods that are making their breath smell - you could say something like, “That meal is making my breath unpleasant. Are you experiencing it too?” (even if your breath isn’t stinking). This will help them feel that it isn’t just about them but about both of you, and they are more likely to do something about it.

  • Soften the blow: As uncomfortable as it feels, sometimes, you need to learn how to politely tell someone they have bad breath if nothing else works. You could simply tell them that their breath is smelly, directly but politely. Bring up this sensitive topic with compassion and care, especially if it is someone close to you or you’re worried about making them upset.

It can certainly be awkward to tell someone they’ve got bad breath but taking a different approach might make them feel comfortable with it. And when it comes to stinky breath, here’s what you can do to not end up in a reverse situation, where someone has to tell you that your breath smells -

  • Follow a dental care routine: This is an absolute must if you want to stave off bad breath. Brush twice a day, once in the morning and once at night before going to bed. Make sure you rinse off with a dental-approved mouthwash, and do not forget to floss well.

  • Visit the dentist: Do not skip visiting the dentist once every six months or so. Your dental expert can guide you in taking care of your teeth better and avoid bad breath. Regular teeth cleanings also help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation and prevent halitosis.

  • Chew gum: Pop a chewing gum into your mouth, especially when you are out and about. But make sure it's not sugar-loaded, as they can damage your teeth in the long run. Chew a gum that is dental-approved and sugar-free.

Halitosis is not too bad, and it is treatable. Encourage your loved ones to follow a solid oral care routine, regardless of whether they have bad breath or not. Don’t single them out or make them feel awkward but lead by example. Have them visit a dentist regularly as well. It is also important for everyone to use advanced dental products such as the Oral-B electric toothbrushes to take care of the teeth well and deal with bad breath effectively.

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