Bad Breath: How to Tell If You Have It, and What You Can Do About It

  • Bad Breath Do you have it and what to do about it

Recently I had the pleasure of working in a dental office as a hygienist for the day.  My 2:00 patient had arrived for his preventative maintenance appointment (aka “a cleaning”).  I struggle with calling these visits “a cleaning” because there is so much more than cleaning that should be taking place….anyhow, back to the story.

I went to the reception room to get David (my 2:00 patient), and was taken aback by his handsomeness.  Although I am (very happily) married, it is always nice (and a little intimidating) to work on strikingly beautiful people.  Seeing as it was the middle of the day, David was well dressed, well groomed and had cologne on that brought you even closer to him.  He is the CEO of a company and very highly respected in his field.

Bad breath trumps good looks

As we were chatting about changes in his health history, something became very apparent to me; David had the breath of a dragon, honestly it was worse than a dragon and I found myself unable to concentrate on anything he was saying.  My focus turned from paying attention to what he was saying to trying to dodge the vapor that was spewing from his mouth.

I felt bad, really, I did, but I had lost focus on what David was saying because I was so taken aback by the whole picture; a man very well groomed, very handsome, and smelled of amazing cologne….that is until he opened his mouth and started speaking.  Here is my dilemma:

I have no relationship with this man; I was working as a sub in an office so the chances of seeing him again were slim to none.  This clearly was not his first dental cleaning (in fact the office referred to him as a VIP patient), yet it seemed as if this man had no idea what evil lurked in his mouth, and how offensive his breath was to the world.  What was I to do?

Sometimes bringing up bad breath can be uncomfortable

In my true Gumption form I braced the subject; I asked David if he was interested in knowing what I was seeing , and if I saw any issues that looked like they were related to home care would he like to know about them.  He accepted my invitation and gave me permission to let him in on what I was seeing.

Once I am given permission, I typically find ways to talk about subjects that may be uncomfortable.  Had I not asked his permission to talk about the issues that I was seeing, his likelihood of resistance to change would be high.  I feel that this is a fundamental step in dentistry that we do not do, and because of it, people are not owning their disease….there was no way a “cleaning” was going to cure David’s breath issue, but him knowing how to focus at home with the right products would certainly help the situation.

I asked David if anyone (dental or non dental) had talked to him about his breath, or if he was aware that he even had bad breath.  To my surprise, the answer was NO!  Not his wife, not his co-workers, and sadly not his dental office.  He had no idea that after speaking 5 words, no one was able to focus on his brilliance because they were too focused on dodging the evilness that was coming from his mouth.

The issue was coming from his tongue and the inside area of his lower teeth.  We spent time looking at all of the healthy areas in his mouth and where his efforts were showing up, and then we looked at his tongue.   He had never been taught to brush it or to gargle vs. rinsing, or to know how it was supposed to look if it were clean.

I gave him a few tips that day on brushing and gargling and sent him home with a recommendation for Tooth and Gums Tonic and the 21 Days to a Healthy Mouth program.  When he got home that night he asked his wife if she noticed his breath and she confessed that she did, but she felt bad saying anything, and the next day his co-workers reported the same thing.

This is the stuff that breaks my heart and fills me with purpose.  It honestly makes me mad to know that hundreds of people noticed the issue, but felt too uncomfortable saying anything; and that he was a VIP patient in an office, yet had never been told what was going on.

There are ways to determine if you breath is bad or not

So how do you know if you have bad breath?  There are 2 easy ways to determine if you are offending the masses.

  1.  Lick the back of your hand and wait 40 seconds and smell the area that you licked.  That sweetness or lack thereof is what people smell when you face them and talk.  You may notice after reading this that some people turn their head slightly away from you when speaking.  Often this is because they are aware that they have bad breath….or they are aware that you have bad breath.
  1. Take a spoon and drag it down your tongue.  Use the edges of the scooping side to collect the bacteria.  Have a look and a smell at that.  It sounds gross, and it may make you want to gag, but it’s the true nitty gritty in what people smell when they talk to you.


Conquering bad breath once and for all

I am happy to report that David completed the 21 Days to a Healthy Mouth program, and is enjoying the new products that he has found (thanks to the starter kit in the 21 Days program).

He reports that the Tooth and Gums Tonic not only works at controlling his breath, he notices that his mouth is noticeably cleaner all of the time, and he loves how the Sulcabrush gets to the areas on the inside of his lower teeth that were also causing issues.

He also states that he loves knowing how to tell if his breath is fresh or not, and he even notices that his food tastes much better now.

According to the ADA (American Dental Association) nearly 50% of the US population has bad breath, and of those, 50% have chronic bad breath.  Conventional products often do not fix the issue, and instead mask it for a short time and make it worse in the long run.

Products like Tooth and Gums Tonic make a huge difference, and really help to not only destroy the bad bacteria associated with bad breath, but it also helps to feed the good bacteria that help with clean breath.

So my question to you is, are you kissably fresh and healthy, or a fire breathing dragon?  Hopefully these tips will help you tell for yourself instead of waiting for someone to tell you, because chances are, they won’t say anything, but they sure will notice it!

So, if you know someone that has bad breath, but you don’t know how to tell them, send them this article and let them know you care.  I promise, if you had a booger in your nose, you’d want someone to tell you instead of waiting until you look in the mirror and notice it’s been there for who knows how long!

Sometimes it takes a bit of an uncomfortable moment to let someone know that you care, but once you go there, it will get better, I promise.

2017-03-06T23:06:51+00:00 Tags: , , |

About the Author:

Carrie is a dental hygienist, oral health coach and creator of Oral Health Coaching, an online course that teaches you how to care for your mouth with life long results.  Her daily “bite-size” pieces to understanding what it takes to achieve a healthy mouth make it easy to learn and implement at home. Carrie owns and operates, where she studies and recommends natural oral health care products that are effective and deliver great results.  She helps families all over the world via Skype, and works locally in person as well as an oral health coach, a personal trainer for your mouth.  She is happy to consult with anyone who may have questions. Come say hello on , Facebook and Twitter.


  1. misslaurel February 7, 2014 at 11:50 am - Reply

    OMG poor guy! The hot, successful guy with the dank breath. Ew! Imagine sitting next to Dragon in 4 hour meetings? So happy his story turned around. Thanks for addressing this sensitive issue, Carrie! I love the hand-lick test.

    • Carrie Ibbetson February 7, 2014 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      Laurel, you know I am here to help hack your way to a healthy mouth! Next time we have stinky cheese let’s do the hand lick test and see what is really going on!!

  2. Nomi February 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    Fantastic blog entry. It is hard to tell someone that their breath stinks, especially when they are cute … he is lucky that you have gumption! Kudos to you for changing his life. Keep on rockin~

    • Carrie Ibbetson February 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      Nomi, I love your style! Thanks for the kudos, coming from you it is a real compliment!

  3. Tanya Pierce February 7, 2014 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I have been working in dentistry now for over 25 years as well as your experience is close! I have been an RDH for over 20 years and a CDA for 5 years previous to that! I have never heard the “lick your hand idea”,and I must say it makes sense! Its funny because we have these simple little ideas right in front of our face and unless we hear some1 else say them, we don’t think of them! Thank you for the quick tip!
    I have recently relocated and ld off work now for over a yr now! In the past working experience I have had several people ask me about their breath and we always sold Closys and Breath RX so I wanted your expert opinion on both? I have also recommended that patients watch your video on your website with the sulca brush and tooth and gum tonic! I recommended the breath in your hands idea and the smell your floss or dry brush breath test!
    I have always used the back of a toothpick flosser to line the gums around my teeth because several patients I saw always miss brushing below the gums! I do use a water pick, however, most of the time at lunch, the toothbrush does not get below the gums like a tooth pick or sulcabrush! Ive always recommended a sulcabrush for 3rds but not the lings which is another great idea I just never thought about! I had always recommended a childs toothbrush!
    My grandmother had always used Pearl drops which I looked into and couldnt find so she ordered it from a drug store! Now she told me it whitened her teeth and she never used toothpaste before! She passed at 87 with all of her teeth and flossed a few times a wk! Have u seen this before and is it similar to your dental ice?
    I have always used baking soda to remove my tea, coffee, and soda stains because the toothpaste always makes me gag and the after taste was aweful! I also use a Fluoridex gel that is 100% flouride on a 1.0 level to remineralise the teeth and reduce my extremely sensitive teeth! All other Rx fluorides were disgusting!
    Now I’m like you in that if I dont like it, I don’t recommend it! What is your opinion on Fluoride? I posted an article about fluoride on my facebook to help my friend with extremely sensitive teeth and neglect and decay play a role as well but I had an extremely disturbing comment from a male friend about how his dentist does not recommend fluoride and he says it’s a poison!
    So my male friend sends me a video on how fluoride is causing kidney failure, bone distruction as well as animals are affected from the water! This got me thinking that it could be worse to eat this animal with excessive amounts if we didnt know where they were raised( beef, pork, and chicken). Of coarse I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of my other facebook friends so I vented my frustration as to how he sent me an extremely old video on fluoride and if it is swallowed it can cause destruction in the body in excess amounts and I always had my well water patients have their water tested before they got a Rx from their dentist! He commented, “Do your research”!
    Then I repented with my updated version of my video and “Do Your Research” through new info not old! The article explained that in excess it can cause those issues as I had known but also positively influenced the patients that the children had a 60% reduction in decay rate! I said I didn’t swallow it and only brushed and rinsed with it for a total of 4 minutes for 100% effectiveness in remineralising healthy areas of teeth not decayed then spit it out!
    Now in my yrs of experience I am always open about new ideas and we all are in our bored, caotic daily routine of blood and pus! So in my experience my patients with a high decay rate and also my children I gave varnish tx’s including OHI in brushing, flossing, and of course a water flosser! I also sold home fluoride and some offices wouldn’t spend the extra to purchase the better tasting Fluoridex! Proceeding the other home fluorides I didnt have a good success rate! Fluoridex, I had a great success rate in minimal decay and sensitivity after! Patients love it and swore by it as myself! I still remember my Dr saying I could sell poop in a tube, lol!
    I still think after trying the water flosser that the tight contacts still need flossed but we conflict on that idea! I am 6’1″ and I have always hated flossing due to my fingers being long also, perfect hygienist, lol! I noticed interproximal demineralization on myself and patients who did the same thing and used only a water flosser without string floss in tight contacts! What’s your opinion on this?
    I just went to a seminar about 2 weeks ago with the editor/ speaker of RDH magazine and Spry, xylitol is a big thing now! I had heard of it but the diarrhea stage of incorporating it into your diet was a little bit of a turn off until your body gets used to it! I experienced it and was a little skeptical and I still am! We all wonder if these pharmaceutical products are a gimmick or is there potential side effects that we will not find until later? I don’t ever want to be that hygienist!
    The xylitol was recommended 5 times a day! I ate the mints that night like candy and wanted to inhale the rest! LOL! They were tasty but the morning toilet was not influencing! The body disgards human made things I believe for a reason! I’m still skeptical because with these results, my patients will be! Do the benefits outweigh the side effects or does the side effects do harmful future damage? We are all suppose to recommend these new things in the office!
    Please return my email regarding these issues because I do value your feed back as we hygienists stick together like glue! We are a group full of extremely hard working individuals who burn out in this field without our sisters to make us feel human!
    Please also look at my facebook entry on yesterdays post with our videos and you will see what I mean about the old one sided video he had verses my two sided video posting! I appreciate your time and experience also! I’m a hygienist in Phoenix, AZ and you are already on my facebook since I liked you and commented previously! I follow you on Twitter also and my prevoius Dr used Tooth and Gum Tonic but I have never tried it! He bought his patients some but the taste was reported as not so good! What ingredients does it have?
    I would like to buy your mouthwash to try it and also your dental ice!
    Tanya L. Pierce, RDH, CDA
    P.S. Where are you from? I just moved and it would be nice to experience some continuing ed with some new hygienist friends and stay updated on ideas! Do you still keep your license active? Surely you do as we could NEVER take that exam again! LOL!

  4. lOvey February 8, 2014 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Oh my! Had to repost to all my dental colleagues and friends. I’ve had this scenario play out so many times. That very attractive, looking and smelling good patient with the dragon breath. Very good read and tips to help any deal with and talk about this sensitive subject.

    • Carrie Ibbetson February 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing, it is a real struggle to find the right and approach sometimes! Please let me know how it goes!!

  5. Vicky L February 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Oh my goodness, poor guy! You were so kind, and so brave to tell him! I have a confession to make – it’s so gross but just hear me out. My husband never had a problem telling me I have bad breath. It would often be after I would brush my teeth! I would always say “what? I just brushed my teeth AND my tongue!” To make a long story short – i discovered I have tonsil stones. Please don’t google that unless you are a very strong person. ( Carrie I’m sure you know what I’m talking about) Ewww. So yea, that is sometimes the case too. Thanks for such a great post! xoxo

    • Carrie Ibbetson February 10, 2014 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      Vicky, thank you so much for sharing! There are many people who have tonsil stones and just knowing that someone else is out there really helps I’m sure! What did you do about them? Do you use an irrigator like a Hydrofloss to keep the area clean?

      • Vicky L February 18, 2014 at 8:09 am - Reply

        Thank God it’s not an often thing. I often check up on the area and have to remove them a few times a month. I usually move my jaw and tongue up and down and the does the trick. Then gargle with water and himalayan salt. They are always hidden though. There was only one incident when they were visible and that’s the first time I noticed them and had to do research. I believe it’s because of what I eat….I try to stay on the healthy side but all that bread and pastry…mmmm. Thank you again for raising awareness! xo

  6. Katya barry February 9, 2014 at 7:28 am - Reply

    Oh dear…. My mum suffered with bad breath and she was aware of it for years and tried various methods to get rid of it or at least minimise it. But it wasn’t until she started seeing a new dentist who examined her mouth and was able to point out to the problem areas and my mum’s mouth now smells lovely 🙂 main take away, have a stincky breath-see a professional.

    • Carrie Ibbetson February 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm - Reply

      Katya, thank you so much for sharing! I’m glad she was able to get help…so few people do!

  7. lance February 10, 2014 at 6:40 am - Reply

    Thank you gor the great article. I’ve been dealing with bad breath and cant figure it out. i brush my teeth and tongue,floss,rinse with peroxidebut nothing seems to help. It’s embarrising to hear yoyu have bad breath or even worse no you have that dragon breath. Thanks for the article and ill be sure to check out your 21 day plan

    • Carrie Ibbetson February 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      Lance, thanks for the comment. Often it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. Products and cleaning technique are a huge piece to the puzzle. Let me know how it all goes for you!

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