How to pass the fresh breath test

A lovely confident smile is more important when it comes to dating than nice eyes or a toned body, according to research by Bupa Dental. But if you’re worried about bad breath, the thought of smiling and laughing with someone you fancy – let alone kissing someone – may send you scurrying off with lips clamped shut.


US dentist Dr Harold Katz started researching halitosis in 1993 when his teenage daughter was suffering from the embarrassing problem. In his comprehensive ebook The Bad Breath Bible (download free from, Dr Katz explains that ‘bad breath is the result of billions of bad-breath-related bacteria eating leftover proteins in your mouth and converting them to smelly, sulphur-based waste’.

You need some bacteria in your mouth to help immunity and digestion, but an excess of bad-breath-related bugs, which lurk under the surface of your tongue and at the back of your throat, ‘leads to stronger and more frequent breath odour problems’.

So what can you do? First, confirm you have the problem. ‘Lick the back of your hand, let it dry for ten seconds and then smell,’ suggests Dr Katz. If it’s whiffy, remember that while good oral hygiene is always essential it may not prevent bad breath, so try the following…

  • Tackle a dry mouth. Saliva helps control bacteria so this is key. Likely causes include smoking, alcohol (also in some mouthwashes), coffee, energy drinks, mouth breathing, sleep apnoea, some drugs and toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulphate.
  • Reduce sugars of all kinds. Bacteria feast on sugar, leading to halitosis as well as plaque, gum disease and tooth staining. Bugs also thrive on protein-rich foods, particularly red meat, says Dr Eddie Coyle of Bupa Dental.
  • Drink lots of water but avoid waste-producing acidic juices, eg, tomato and citrus.
  • Steer clear of bad-breath villains, eg garlic and onions.
  • Try The Breath Co range, which includes sugar-free Dry Mouth Lozenges, £9, perfect to pop in a pocket or bag, from Boots and other leading chemists.

  • Always consult your doctor if you have a medical problem
  • Email your questions to