We’ve all had those moments where we’ve nearly stumbled backward when, during an important face-to-face convo, our conversation partner hit us in the face with a blast of foul breath. And we cringe at the thought that we’ve been the culprit on the other side, offending the innocent nostrils of a friend, business partner, or a date.
Most people with halitosis - more commonly considered chronic bad breath - just grab their toothbrush and scrub away the symptom, without treating the cause. Once that minty fresh feeling dissipates, bad breath seeps right back in.
So, you would want to know if you were emitting a foul odor everywhere you went that was causing even the closest of friends to consistently raincheck on sunny days - wouldn’t you? On the flip side, you would shut your mouth forever and turn tomato-red if your friend acted on the impulse to jump back when you spoke, along with the proclamation “your breath reeks!”
We are here to help you answer one of the most difficult questions known to man: how do you tell your friend that they have bad breath?
Don’t Beat Around the Bush
First off, you don’t want there to be any gray area around the issue, because this is an important piece of information. There is no easy way to say it, but someone has to directly tell them; if you’re not going to do it, rest assured that nobody else is, either. If you simply offer your friend a mint, they might get the hint (and be offended by your approach) - but the reality is that they’ll probably just think that you’re offering them a mint. If you take a step back from them when they’re talking to you, they probably just think that you have a large bubble of personal space. That might also be offensive, and inaccurate!
You get the idea. As always, honesty is the best policy. They are going to react how they are going to react, and that isn’t your responsibility. Truth is your highest priority.
Give them a “Bad Breath” Compliment SandwichCompliment sandwiches are served up when someone has some - ahem - less than enjoyable feedback to share with the other person. You begin with a compliment (the bread), deliver the stinky “meat,” and then close the sandwich with another compliment. In this case, try a dialogue that goes something like this:
Compliment Bread: “Hey, [insert odorous friend’s name]. I just want you to know how close I feel to you. This is such a valuable friendship to me, and I feel like I can tell you anything.”
The Stinky Meat: “Because we are so close, I feel like I need to be the one to tell you that I’ve noticed that you have a pretty strong odor on your breath.”
Compliment Bread: “You’re awesome for listening to me! Thank you.”
This kind of approach actually makes the person feel super supported and good about themselves, with a little room for improvement.
Ask Them if They Want to KnowWe recognize that asking someone if they want to hear something difficult leaves them the option to say that they don’t, and then they are doomed to carry on with their smelly life.
However, you’ll find that almost 100% of the time, if you openly approach someone with the phrase “can I give you some feedback on something I’ve noticed?” the person will be either very open to receiving it, or at least curious enough to hear you out.
At this point, your friend will probably be expecting the worst - that you’re going to tell them that they’re an awful human being, that they’re hideous, or whatever. Then, deliver the bad news with authenticity and tact. It might not even be as bad as what they were expecting.
Work it into Casual ConversationYou want to tell them about the stench that comes along with their deep yawns, and you don’t know how to seamlessly incorporate bad breath it into a conversation.
Begin by bringing up something in your own oral hygiene routine: “I started using powdered toothpaste, and I absolutely love how it feels. What kind of toothpaste do you use?” When they give you their answer (“Tom’s!” “Crest!” “Strawberry!”), this is your window. “Are you sure that it kills bacteria efficiently? I actually have noticed an odor that makes me wonder if this might be a good time for you to switch toothpastes.”
Keep It Light
Let’s face it - our fear is embarrassing someone by telling them that they have bad breath, and the bigger of a deal you make it, the more humiliated they are going to feel. And, the antidote for embarrassment is laughter, so if you can cleverly incorporate humor, power to you.
Get Them Drunk…
...and let the honesty flow. Just kidding. Alcohol will probably just make their issue worse.
The Truth About Bad Breath
With halitosis, the problem often runs much deeper than the need for a little mouthwash - literally. Research analysis reveals that 5-10% of oral malodor cases are due to disease outside the mouth area- that’s up to 5 million people with non-oral causes of bad breath. Given this information, one could kind of look at bad breath as a blessing in disguise, as it is a signal to look into other possible issues in the body. It could be an issue in the lungs, the sinuses, or the gut. So, you’re really doing your friend a favor by telling them that they have bad breath! This way, they can mask the symptoms with mints while they do an inventory of their health practices, and what may be the root cause. We personally recommend they conveniently carry around a spitless mouthwash in their purse or pocket while they figure out what’s really going on.