Ida Alvarez avoided close conversations. She was afraid of what someone might tell her. She was pretty sure she had really bad breath.
“It is such an embarrassing situation,” Alvarez, 31, of Los Angeles told CNN. “There was always a bitter taste in my mouth,but I didn’t want to ask anyone if my breath smelled bad because I was afraid of a negative reply.”
Her keep-a-distance approach might be a good strategy given most of our natural reaction to bad breath, known medically as halitosis. It can wilt your love life, and even cost you that new job, according to surveys.
However, the 90 million Americans who suffer from bad breath — and the innocent bystanders — will be glad to know that the unwanted odor is easier to get rid of than you might think.
Do you have it?
The first thing to do is determine if your breath is fresh or foul. Most people with stinky breath aren’t even aware they have it, because the brain becomes acclimated to one’s own personal scent. The good news is there are ways to self-diagnose.
Start with a tongue check. What color is it? A pink, shiny tongue indicates fresh breath. However, a tongue that’s white and scaly in appearance can indicate bad breath, according to Dr. Harold Katz, bacteriologist and founder of the California Breath Clinic.
Smelling your own breath in cupped hands is not the best way to check for halitosis, Katz says. Instead, lick the back of your hand, let it dry for a few seconds, and then smell the surface.
Alvarez’s fears of bad breath had her so self-conscious she avoided kissing her significant other. “I would brush my teeth but was still worried he’d think I was gross.”
It’s important to remember that bad breath is typically not a sign of bad dental hygiene. “It usually has nothing to do with teeth,” Katz says. “You can have good teeth, rotten teeth or no teeth at all and still have bad breath. It has to do with the tongue.”
Think of your tongue as a shaggy carpet and your mouth as a mobile chemistry lab. More than 600 types of bacteria are found in the average mouth. Many of those bac
teria get trapped under the surface of the tongue and cause the bad breath.