How to Have Fresh Breath at an Important Dinner

“The garlic cheese bread is delicious!” you declare to your potential boss with a smile after he asks for your thoughts on his order for the table.

You hope your smile hides the fact that your mind is racing, thinking of how you’re going to deal with the inevitable garlic breath.

We’ve all had a similar situation.

Maybe your important dinner was with your future mother in law, and she served garlic mashed potatoes. Or a first date where the menu was full of items that cause bad breath.

We understand. That’s why we wanted to let you know how to have fresh breath at an important dinner.

Prepare for Your Dinner

Before you head out to your important dinner, prepare yourself for the possibilities of bad breath with these steps:

  • Before dinner, brush your teeth, floss, and scrape your tongue. This will get your mouth ready to handle bad breath as best as possible.
  • Drink an extra glass of water. This will add a little more saliva in your mouth, which decreases stinky bacteria growth.
  • Tuck a small toothbrush into a pocket or purse so you can brush after the meal. If you’re really worried, you should also bring a tongue scraper, floss, and mouthwash.

While at The Table

When you sit down at the table, take note of what is being served and follow our guidelines of what to eat and drink and what to avoid. 

Avoid these Bad Breath Foods

  • Garlic & Onions – these contain about 33 different stinky sulfur compounds, all of them creating bad breath. They also get into your bloodstream and are expelled as you exhale. They stay there for a while, so it is best to avoid these foods the whole day before your important dinner.
  • Cheese – when the bacteria in your mouth digest cheese, they create excess hydrogen sulfide, making your breath smell like rotten eggs.
  • Horseradish – it contains a chemical called isothiocyanate that has a distinct, not pleasant odor.
  • Spicy Foods – hot sauce and curries may be great for eating but leave them for another time. These foods leave a layer of spice on your tongue that can be smelled with every exhale.

Eat these Breath Boosting Foods

  • Apples – say yes to apples on your salad or pork chops! They break down the sulfur compounds that cause bad breath and collect things that get stuck in your teeth.
  • Parsley & Basil – if pesto is on the menu, grab it! The oils in these herbs act like a mouthwash to mask odors temporarily.
  • Ginger – raw or pickled, its powerful flavor knocks out your bad breath.
  • Spinach – that pre-meal salad can contain polyphenol-rich spinach that breaks down stinky sulfur compounds.
  • Berries – the vitamin C in these keeps bad breath bacteria in check.
  • Crunchy Vegetables – these encourage the production of saliva which rinses bacteria away.

Drink This Not That

  • Drink Green Tea instead of Coffee. Coffee’s powerful smell sits in your mouth, making you think twice about opening it to talk. Green tea contains deodorizing elements that get rid of your bad breath, so you’ll feel confident chiming in with your side of the story.
  • Drink Water with Lemon instead of a Soft Drink. Soft drinks add a layer of sugar to your mouth allowing bacteria to feast on it and grow. Water hydrates you, allowing saliva to do its work of clearing out the bacteria in your mouth. Adding lemon helps prevent the growth of smelly bacteria because of its acidity.
  • Drink a Vodka Soda with Lime instead of Any Other Alcohol. While we’d love you to skip alcohol all together, we understand responsible drinking is a big part of some important meals. Most alcoholic drinks are full of sugar, a super fuel for bad breath bacteria. Vodka fights bad breath by killing the bacteria in your mouth. Soda water doesn’t add any sugar and the lime has that awesome acidity that combats bad breath too.

What to Do If You Feel Like You Have Bad Breath

If you feel like you may have bad breath, excuse yourself from the dinner and head to the restroom to give yourself a proper bad breath check.

Why do I advise heading to the restroom? Well, I hate to break it to you but the classic “cupping your hand” sniff test will almost always fail. This method doesn’t get the breath from the back of your mouth in the same way speaking does. And doing it at the table won’t score you any points.

To really get a good test of the state of your breath, try one of these three methods:

  1. Ask a Trusted Friend
    Let them sniff your breath and give their opinion. This only works with a very close friend, coworker, or relative that you are sure will tell you the truth. If you don’t have someone like that near, then head on to the other methods.
  2. Lick Yourself
    Find a spot on your body that doesn’t have any scent on it from lotions, perfumes, cologne, or sweat. Give it a nice, strong lick, with as far back on the tongue as you can. Wait 10 seconds. If where you licked has a smelly odor, you probably have bad breath. If it doesn’t, you are good to go!
  3. Swab Your Tongue
    Grab a spoon from your table on the way to the restroom and use it to gently scrape your tongue as far back as possible without gagging yourself. Give the spoon a good sniff. That’s what your breath smells like when you talk. If you don’t have a spoon, you can use your finger. Just make sure to wash your hands first, with unscented soap if possible. If the soap is scented, rinse your hands until the scent has faded and proceed with the swab test.

If you find that your breath is fine, fantastic! Head back to your dinner with full confidence!

But if you’ve found some offending odors, here’s how to handle it.

Quickly Get Rid of Bad Breath (Even Without a Toothbrush)

The fastest way to deal with bad breath is to get your mouth as clean as possible.

If you were able to pack that toothbrush with you, great! Use it and don’t forget to brush your tongue as far back as possible.

If you don’t have any dental supplies, here’s what you can do.

  1. Wash your hands and leave them wet.
  2. Using a wet finger, rub your teeth and gums on one side.
  3. Rinse your finger and repeat on the other side.
  4. Grab a paper towel and get it wet. Wrap it around your finger and use it as a toothbrush, rubbing as much as your mouth and tongue as possible.
  5. Rinse your mouth 2-3 time using fresh water and forceful swishing each time.
  6. Wash your hands again and dry them this time because your breath freshening routine is done!

You’re All Set for Your Important Meal

Congrats! You’re an important dinner, fresh breath pro!

Now you know how to prepare your breath to be fresh for an important meal, which foods to avoid, which to eat, what drinks to drink and what to skip.

And if you do get caught in an unfortunate situation, you have the tools to handle it, even if you have no tools at all.

Now head out with confidence to that very important dinner!

If Your Bad Breath Doesn’t Go Away

Is your bad breath more consistent than a one-time food misstep? That’s called halitosis, and it may be because of other factors.

Practice good oral health habits such as brushing and flossing twice a day. Drink plenty of water to avoid dry mouth.

If you’re doing all those things, your bad breath may be due to something more serious such as gum disease, cavities, another disease, or the medications you’re taking.

We’d love to help you solve your bad breath problem so book your appointment now to come see us soon.

Dr. Felicity is a National Board Certified Dentist and a Longtime resident of Charleston.

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