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Asking 4 A Friend: ‘My breath is foul… WTF do I do?’


TextDouglas GreenwoodIllustrationCallum Abbott

1 in 4 people are affected by halitosis – causing extreme bad breath – and they might not even know it...

Asking 4 A Friend is a column investigating all of those embarrassing situations you (sorry, your ‘friend’) is too scared to ask about. Do you sweat excessively? Have terrible bad breath? Whatever your problem is, we’ve got you covered. 

Justin Bieber often shares his spotlight with legendary women. First came the reigning queen of queer adjacent pop music Carly Rae Jepsen, whose song “Call Me Maybe” became an international smash after the “Baby” singer shared a video of him dancing to it online. Then there was former Tumblr girl-turned-pop behemoth Halsey, who was collaborating with him way before the rest of the world caught on. 

But perhaps most prominently, there’s the Biological Female™-slash-drag queen Jasmine Masters. Post-RuPaul’s Drag Race, she has pivoted from runway icon to online comedienne. Her own brand of YouTube ‘storytimes’ really blew up when, out of nowhere, JB shared her dangerously funny ode to other people’s bad breath. “You don’t taste that? That shit that’s in your mouth?” she sasses to her phone, held in selfie mode. “You gotta taste it… I smell a hot boiled-ass-port-a-potty coming out your mouth.”

It was a brutal, though iconic takedown of a topic that’s otherwise wholly misunderstood. And as much as we can collectively live for Jasmine’s rant, it’s worth pointing out just how prevalent bad breath really is – perhaps more so than we might realise. Studies have shown that 1 in 4 people suffer from halitosis, the medical term for bad breath. It might just be a morning thing (apparently all people have it to different degrees of severity), but for many people, it’s a condition they struggle to identify the source of, and so have to deal with in darkness throughout their day. 

“Usually the person with it is unaware they even have it,” a clinician at London’s Bow Lane Dental Practice tells Dazed Beauty.  It’s hard for most people to pinpoint because the source of the problem tends to be invisible – or microbial, to be exact. In most cases, it stems from gas-producing bacteria that sit around your gum line and on your tongue after you’ve eaten a meal. If you don’t reach those pesky areas when you brush your teeth that day, they multiply. Said gas resembles rotten eggs, and the reason it swirls around your mouth and out into the ether is fairly simple: leave anything to fester, and it’ll start to smell gross AF. Just like your bin needs emptying on a weekly basis, it’s a good idea to keep your own trash-chute free of straggly bits by brushing after each meal – not just the end of the day.  

But it’s not just those who don’t brush or floss hard enough who fall victim to halitosis; smokers often get caught up in the drama too. You see, puffing on fags and joints every 10 minutes dries out the mouth, causing tar and nicotine to build up around your teeth and diabolical bacteria to roam free. You’ve got to keep everything nice and moist to keep it smelling fresh. 

“In most cases, halitosis stems from gas-producing bacteria that sit around your gum line and on your tongue after you’ve eaten a meal. If you don’t reach those pesky areas when you brush your teeth that day, they multiply. Said gas resembles rotten eggs, and the reason it swirls around your mouth and out into the ether is fairly simple: leave anything to fester, and it’ll start to smell gross AF”

Unlike many conditions which involve a trip to a doctor’s surgery to make full sense of, all of the answers to your problems here lie in your local supermarket. Bow Lane Dental Practice recommends you grab a good toothbrush with a tongue scraper, and choose your mouthwash wisely! “Use a mouthwash that contains chlorine dioxide, since this will break down the gases that cause bad breath,” they tell us. “It’s best to use these mouthwashes just before you go to sleep and make sure you gargle for at least 30 seconds to ensure you rinse all the parts of your mouth thoroughly.” They left us with a word of warning: “Do not waste your money on the normal, mediocre mouthwashes, because some of these contain alcohol which will merely dry the mouth, making the odour worse.”

So there you go: if you scrimp on mouthwash that tastes like two little bits of Bubblegum Extra dropped into a 500ml bottle of dishwater, all you’ll be left with in the long term is a rotten taste in your mouth. Invest, and you too can avoid the savage wrath of icon and truth-teller Jasmine Masters. 

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