Expert bacteriologist shares tips on how to avoid bad breath and kiss with confidence
Everyone has experienced those first date nerves at some point in their lives. You panic about saying the wrong thing, wearing the wrong outfit, picking the wrong restaurant, or - heaven forbid - leaning in for a kiss, only to be told that you have bad breath.
Thankfully, though, at least one of those fears can be eliminated with a little expert advice.
In an interview with VT, expert bacteriologist Dr. Harold Katz shared his tips on how to avoid halitosis (and embarrassment!) by following a few simple rules.
"I got into treating halitosis because my daughter had a bad breath issue when she was a teenager," said Dr. Katz, who has been a dentist for 40 years. "Her friends would constantly offer her gum and mints to the point where she became very embarrassed to the point where she came home one day and asked, ‘Daddy do I have bad breath?’"
At first, Dr. Katz worried about how to approach the subject; after all, halitosis can be an embarrassing topic to discuss, especially for a young teen. However, after getting past the awkward stage of establishing that, yes, his daughter did have some breath problems, he turned his attention to finding the cause.
"[Her bad breath] had to do with the fact that she was on the basketball team, and after a game or practice her mouth would become dry," the doctor said, before going on to explain: "when the mouth is dry, you lose your natural defence: saliva."
He continued: "Saliva provides a lot of benefits; it keeps your breath fresh, it keeps your teeth from getting cavities, it keeps you from having gum disease - so when your mouth becomes dry you lose that defence.
"What you smell in bad breath are various sulphur gases produced by various bacteria."
Once he'd figured out the problem, then, it was easy for Dr. Katz to find a solution. And, as it turns out, avoiding unpleasant breath is not as difficult as you may think.
The doctor's first tip, unsurprisingly, is to stay hydrated.
"Your mouth needs to be very moist, so you need to drink plenty of water," he said. "We use about 1.5 litres of saliva a day just through normal speaking and eating and swallowing, and that needs to be replaced by equal amounts of water. So, 1.5 litres of water a day is ideal to replenish the saliva that we use up."
But even people who drink water religiously sometimes end up doing things that take them right back to stinky breath territory - especially if they're worried about their breath being bad on a date.
"One of the biggest mistakes [people make] is using gum or mints that may contain sugar. The fact is that you can’t mask bad breath," Dr. Katz explained. "So those strong-tasting gums and mints - if they have sugar - you’re actually feeding the bacteria and making them stronger, which is the last thing you want to do. So make sure that the gum and mints you’re using are sugar-free."
What's more, if you're using gum to cover up strong smells from food, you may want to cut out the middleman and avoid the worst-offending culinary ingredients altogether.
According to the doctor:
"The worst food [for causing bad breath] by far is garlic. A close second is onions, followed by curry. They all have sulphur compounds in them to begin with, so you’re essentially giving yourself bad breath.
"But one of the most surprising food groups is dairy. The proteins in dairy foods are very easily converted into nasty-smelling sulphur compounds. So we recommend trying to avoid cheese and ice cream and things like that because the way the mouth works - the bacteria can extract sulphur from the amino acids in those foods, and then you end up having a sort of sour milk odour coming out of your mouth."
Alcohol and cigarettes will also dry out your mouth, and so you really should avoid excessive amounts if you're planning on going in for a smooch.
However, if you've somehow found yourself being dragged to an Italian restaurant and simply can't say no to that delicious cheesy garlic bread with a glass of wine on the side, Dr. Katz advises drinking plenty of water to counteract the effects.
There are also a couple of foods you can eat to help improve your breath.
Berries, in particular, are good "because, not only do they have a lot of liquid in them, they also have antioxidants which are very good for the mouth." Dr. Katz added that "Celery also works well because it has a lot of liquid in it, and it’s also very rough so it helps clean the tongue - that’s where the bacteria live."
For those with particularly stubborn breath problems (or just people who want to stay on top of their oral health), Dr. Katz has devised a range of specially-formulated mouthwashes and lozenges to battle those nasty bacteria.
And of course, as any good dentist should, the doctor has one final piece of advice: floss. "You want to get rid of the food particles because they’re acting as fuel for the bacteria," he said, "and if the food is lingering in between the teeth it’s going to be an issue."
So, if you've followed every tip to the letter, made sure to keep yourself hydrated, avoided sugar, and stuck to breath-friendly foods, you should be good to breathe all over your date as much as you want. Within reason, of course.