How to tell Someone they have Bad Breath (15/05/24)

How many of us have been in a situation where you are having a close-up conversation with a loved one or friend and you get hit with a bad smell? Could be eggy, plastic like, gassy, or even chemical like (read here on what different breath smells mean) but whatever it smells like, you know it’s bad breath.

Bad breath is a very embarrassing issue to deal with but it’s also very common. You obviously want to help this person but it’s a very difficult subject to address and has to be done with the utmost sensitivity and empathy. Let us help give you some advice should you be in this situation.

  1. Get the Timing Right.  We won’t need to tell you this but don’t have a sensitive conversation like this in public or in front of other people. The person you are telling is going to feel embarrassed enough without others hearing. I have witnessed someone telling their partner their breath smells in front of a room full of people and I felt awful for them. Find a quiet moment when you know you won’t be disturbed.
  • Be Compassionate.  This subject needs to be approached with kindness. You could say something like “I noticed your breath smells a little recently, have you been feeling unwell”. Explain that you don’t want them to feel embarrassed, you just want to help them. If you can, try and avoid using the term “bad breath”.
  • Offer Suggestions to Help Them.  How about saying something like “I suffered with my breath a while back and I found that …….. really helped me”. Or “I know a friend who uses …….”. Try and help them by making them feel that others suffer with bad breath too and they aren’t the only ones.
  • Reassure.  At the end of the conversation make sure you say you are always there to talk to and you are happy to help them try and find a solution to their breath issue.

If you really can’t face telling them, you could drop subtle hints like offering them a mint or gum or you could order them a bottle of ProFresh anonymously. It’s always kinder to tell someone but it’s a difficult conversation to have with someone you care about. Just remember.

  • Don’t make fun of them
  • Don’t tell them in front of others
  • Don’t call it bad breath (“your breath isn’t so fresh recently”).
  • Be there for them if they need to talk about it.