How you can ACTUALLY stop bad breath.

Zoe Foster


Are you paranoid about bad breath?

Oh COME ON. You knew we had to talk about it eventually, man. Who else is going to bring up bad breath? No one. No one talks about it. We’re all too busy buying mints and chewing gum and worrying about how much red onion was in that salad. (“A lot”.)

But, my Wrigley-chomping fiends, I too am terrified of having it. And rightly so, for why bother choosing a terrific outfit, and ensuring your makeup and hair looks radiant and breathtaking… and then opening your mouth and the stench of week-old Brie floats out. And that’s why breath fresheners are the biggest selling convenience purchase in Australia, second only to origami sets.

I am pretty sure I must have …”interesting” breath in the mornings, because I am a human being and it’s fairly common to have the breath of a sports sock first thing in the morning when you are a human being.

But I was also convinced I get it when I am hungry, which is always. A lot of people get hunger breath, unfortunately, and if you didn’t know that, and sometimes don’t shove anything in your gob for 3-4 hours, there’s a high and exciting chance you will have that specific stale aroma of hunger breath. Mints and chewy might mask it temporarily, but that’s treating the symptoms, not the cause.

Now, no one has actually TOLD me (you’re all too polite, you sweet, kind, useless things) that I get hunger breath, but judging by the amount of times I smell it on others, I am pretty sure I am a candidate. (“Hungry constantly.”)

So, in a bout of paranoia worthy of Homeland, I went to a breath clinic and did the test. And guess what I found out? It was my TONGUE. My G-damn tongue. I can’t think of ONE useful thing it has ever done for me.

I must come to my own reputational rescue here and tell you that the woman at the place said that I didn’t actually have bad breath, and the chart she showed me after the breath test (zzzing!) proved it, however she said that the small trace of (beautiful, frangipani-esque, probably) odour I might have in the morning or when I have not eaten forever is caused by naughty bacteria (“white gunk”) hanging round on the tongue.


(Gross fact: cheese and meat really get tongue stink going. And there’s poor garlic getting all the grief…)

So, now I use a tongue brush and tongue gel every morning and night. And while my dear fiancé was far too elegant to ever say I had unsavoury breath, he made a point of telling me it was truly a minty-fresh dream since bringing in the tongue brush.

It’s part of my routine now, takes 30 seconds, and according to the woman, is more important than teeth brushing for breath. She also said mouthwash is the worst thing you can do for bad breath, as it contains alcohol, which dries the mouth and removes the barrier that keeps the mouth moist, creating stale breath. And my dentist reckons flossing is more important than brushing. So there you go.

Please note: A tongue brush is different to a tongue scraper, which is something I used to use, after being put on one while doing a month long detox. It’s recommended in Ayurvedic medicine so as to clean the mouth and clear out toxins (eg: grimy bacteria) thoroughly at the start of each day. A scraper will definitely help, but the brush does a more thorough job.

Please also note: The technique of smelling your own breath by cupping your hand over your mouth doesn’t work, because just as your ears can’t really hear your own voice – which is why you recoil hearing a recording of yourself – your nose can’t really smell yourself either. (FYI: Neither can your elbows.)

And then note this: Licking your wrist and smelling it after 10 seconds will give you some indication of the presence of funky breath.

And to finish: I know bad breath isn’t a very charming topic to write on. Sorry. Next time I’ll write on something pleasant and sexy. Like ear wax!

Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. Her books include the beauty bible Amazing Face, dating and relationship guide Textbook Romance, and three novels, Air Kisses, Playing The Field and The Younger Man. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.

Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask.

How do you cure bad breath?