Bad breath is unpleasant and embarrassing. No one wants it, and no one wants to smell it either. But, sometimes, the person who has it isn’t even aware of the problem. So, what can you do to break the news gently to someone who has halitosis so that you can both get relief?
Telling someone that they have bad breath in front of other people isn’t going to go over well. The last thing you want to do is shame the person (after all, the embarrassment of being told they have funky breath will be bad enough). So it’s best to keep this conversation private.
By having this discussion in a one-on-one setting, you can be pretty direct by telling them that there’s a little problem that you’d like them to know about, and it’s their breath. You can even proceed by sharing what you do to keep your breath smelling fresh so that you come across as concerned and helpful. Be sympathetic, respectful, and friendly. This will be a better approach than merely blurting out that their breath stinks.
Tip: If you’re talking to a close family member about their bad breath, you might consider talking about their oral hygiene routine more openly. For example, you could ask them if they’re brushing twice a day and flossing, what type of toothbrush they’re using, and if they’re seeing their dentist for cleanings and checkups. But, again, it’s best to allow this conversation to flow from a place of concern for the other person’s health, so be compassionate and ready to offer tips.
Side note: Keep in mind that you oftentimes can’t smell your own breath, and just because someone has bad breath certainly doesn’t mean that they aren’t practicing good oral hygiene. You could brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly, yet still have nasty breath, including morning breath, every now and then, especially if your tongue isn’t as clean as it should be.
If taking a more direct approach isn’t your idea of a good time, you can try a subtler strategy. As an example, you could keep mints or gum on hand. Start by offering it to them, or you might take some for yourself first before offering it to the other person.
If this happens multiple times, the person may just get the hint. But what if they refuse the mints that you’re offering? Well, at that point, you might want to consider saying something like, “I think you should take some.”
As an alternative, you could also just leave a pack of mints or gum on the person’s desk at work, in their car, or in their room at home. If it’s a coworker that you’re trying to help, doing this anonymously means you can drop the hint without them knowing that it’s you, and that can take a lot of pressure off.
Sure, it can be totally awkward at first to tell someone that they have bad breath, whether it’s a loved one, a friend, or a coworker. But it’ll be worth it because that person can then start to take steps towards getting rid of the odor, whether that means using new oral hygiene products designed to fight bad breath, changing their diet, or getting checked by a doctor to rule out underlying medical conditions that may contribute to halitosis.
Bottom line: when breaking the news to someone that they have less-than-fresh breath, put yourself in their shoes. How would you like someone to approach you about this problem if you had it? From a position of empathy and concern, you can help someone, rather than hurt their feelings, and everyone will be happier for it.