The sinking feeling you have that the sandwich you just ate might be lingering on your breath is as common as it is distracting. Or perhaps it's a hot day and you haven't had as much water as you'd like, leaving you worried your mouth's dryness might smell unpleasant. Knowing how to tell if you have bad breath can be tricky, because you can't identify it yourself. Nonetheless, there are a few things you can do to improve it if needed.
Ask Someone You Trust
Asking someone to evaluate the condition of your breath is an easy solution, but it can lead to a difficult answer. If you're feeling self-conscious about your breath, ask a close friend or family member to take a peek at the inside of your mouth. He or she may notice a white coating on the back of your tongue, which is often a sign of odorous germs.
If you're concerned it may be a chronic issue – or you feel too embarrassed to ask a friend – you can always ask your dentist. He or she can evaluate the air from your mouth and from your nose, giving you a more specific assessment of the source of the odour. A dentist can also help you figure out the best way to treat it, even if you're still unsure how to tell if you have bad breath.
Try the Sniff Test
If you're looking for a quicker indication of how your breath smells, another option is the sniff test. An easy way to do this is to lick your wrist, let it dry for a moment, then take a whiff. You can also floss between two teeth toward the back of your mouth and smell the floss, or use a tongue-scraper to gently scrape the tongue, then smell the scraper.
There are instances when you can actually taste the breath you're omitting. In these cases, the problem is usually caused by something potent you ate, such as garlic or tuna fish, or by a condition such as dry mouth or dehydration – the signs of which include thick, foamy saliva and a change in taste. If you have a stale or otherwise yucky taste in your mouth, there's a good chance it is reflected in the smell of your breath, too. A go-to solution is to rinse your mouth with water, which washes away any food debris and stimulates the cleansing flow of saliva.
What to Do
Still worrying about your breath? There are several ways to curb the issue and neutralise the scent of the air you exhale. Brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day is an essential part of your oral care routine, and is particularly important if you're worried about the scent of your breath. Sometimes your toothpaste simply doesn't do enough to remove the germs affecting your breath; to give yourself a minty, fresh boost, try using a well-scented product that targets the germs on the teeth and tongue responsible for most unpleasant breath odours.
If you think your breath troubles are connected to your diet, consider keeping a journal of what you eat and note when you have bad breath, to see if there is a link. Eliminating certain foods from your diet may also help you pinpoint the culprit and see if your breath improves. Keep in mind that persistent bad breath can be connected to a medical condition, such as a digestive problem. Therefore, speaking with a doctor or dentist may be your best bet.
Halitosis is an embarrassing problem to have, but it's not a problem you have to live with. Getting an idea of how your breath smells and what's causing the smell will let you start an action plan and improve its quality.