This Is How To Tell If You Have Bad Breath

Before a first date, a job interview, or any other event where a good first impression feels imperative, it doesn't hurt to do a quick breath check. Unfortunately, we're not always the best judge when it comes to our own aroma, as we are accustomed to our own scent (via The Washington Post). To spare ourselves the embarrassment of being called out for bad breath, experts suggest some tips and tricks for determining whether or not your breath needs freshening up.

When it comes to our health, there's a difference between a simple bout of bad breath and a condition that may be causing it. According to Pasadena Periodontal Associates, the difference is based on how long the odor lasts. A bout of bad breath is temporary and usually a result of factors, such as food residue in the mouth after eating or a skipped tooth brushing. Halitosis, on the other hand, is a condition in which bad breath is caused by ongoing dental deterioration of the teeth or gums. The condition can also be a result of bacteria buildup on the tongue or throat. This bacteria, often appearing as a thick white film on the tongue, contains sulfur, which is the source of the foul smell (via the State of Victoria's Department of Health).

How can you tell if your breath has developed a stench, and how do you determine whether it's temporary or chronic?

What causes bad breath?

The good news is, if you're struggling with bad breath, you're definitely not alone. "Most people do have bad breath and just do not know it," associate professor at the NYU School of Dentistry Jonathan B. Levine told Everyday Health. He goes on to say that there are several factors that can influence bad-smelling breath, such as smoking, gastric reflux, certain medications, and open-mouth sleeping. Levine also explains how the foods we eat can play a role in the development of bacteria responsible for smelly breath. "High-protein foods, coffee, onions and garlic, sugar, acidic foods and drinks, and dairy products all result in worse breath because they create an environment for the bad bacteria to grow," Levine adds. "It needs to be balanced with fruits, veggies, and alkalinizing good foods."

To avoid the awkwardness of asking a buddy to smell your breath for you, there are ways you can perform a bad breath check on your own. Experts at Modern Smiles Nampa suggest implementing the wrist test. Because the backs of our hands are generally cleaner than the palms or the fingers, go ahead and lick the upward-facing side of your wrist and wait 10 seconds for the area to dry. Then, smell the area and see if you detect any remnants of odor that were transferred from your tongue to the skin. Alternatively, the same exercise can also be conducted using the back of a spoon.

How to keep your breath smelling fresh

If you're looking for a more official test for bad breath, breath kits are also an option, according to Modern Smiles Nampa. These kits work by utilizing a color-changing strip that's placed on the tongue. A change in color will indicate bad breath. Some test kits even take it a step further and measure the number of bacteria found on the tongue. High amounts of bacteria may be an indication of halitosis. 

Thankfully, practicing regular dental hygiene can help keep bad breath and tooth decay at bay. For this reason, the American Dental Association (ADA) promotes daily routine flossing, as well as brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste for a total of 2 minutes (via Healthline). If you find your bad breath is still lingering for longer than desired, consider consulting a physician or dental professional regarding any concerns you may have about your health.