How to Smell Your Own Breath: Common Causes for Bad Breath
Have you ever seen a commercial or moment in a film where the character pumps a quick shot of minty spray into their throat, breathes into their hand, and then moves on with a peppy new confidence? It’s always a bit funny. Unlike these silly cinematic moments, bad breath is no joke. But is it really as easy as that to tell if your breath is bad?
You’ve probably had that moment talking to someone closely and thought, “Oh no, is my breath bad? Are they wanting to run away right now? Are they giving everything they’ve got not to plug their nose or gag?”
Well we are here to give you some ease in those moments, teach you how to tell if your breath needs some odor improvement, and hopefully provide a little of the pep in your step that comes from having the confidence of fresh breath!
Why You Can’t Smell Your Own Breath
Yes, it can be difficult to determine if you have bad breath on your own. This is due to the same reason that you cannot tell what your house smells like after moving in for some time, or why you don't notice your own perfume or cologne after wearing it regularly. The term is called nose blindness, and it refers to a temporary, naturally occurring adaptation of your body that leads to an inability to detect or distinguish common scents in your surroundings. It’s sometimes also referred to as olfactory fatigue or olfactory adaptation.
In short, your nose has smelled something so consistently that it can no longer smell it.
No, your nose isn't becoming lazy. This is a positive feature, as it protects you from becoming overwhelmed with scents. It would be much harder to enjoy the smell of those cookies in the oven if your nose was also registering the intensity of every other smell around it. Your nose is just becoming a bit pickier, if you will.
This is why we are so concerned with our breath. What if we can’t smell it and others can?!
Ways to Check Your Own Breath
There are a few ways you can check your own breath. Read through and find a few that work for you!
This might be the hardest to get the hang of, but it’s one of the most effective, and ironically enough, it’s something that smokers regularly do when they smoke.
Inhale, and instead of exhaling the air out with the normal force of your diaphragm, slightly stick out your jaw and curl your bottom lip upwards, and gently push the air out of your mouth and inhale it back through your nose.
It sounds really tricky but this literally puts your own breath into your own nose!
Cheek Pulling Method
This one can also be a little tricky and follows a similar idea to the previous method, but if you can figure out the coordination, it works! Here’s how it's done:
- Gently hold out one or both of your cheeks, pulling away from your teeth.
- Release and let your cheek fall back toward your teeth
- Repeat the steps, smelling while you release your cheek.
Tongue Swab Method
Tongues can be big culprits for bad breath (more on this later). So to try this method, do the following:
- Use a cotton swab, finger, or craft stick (if you have those lying around) to rub a sample from the back of your tongue.
- Set the tester-of-choice down for a moment to let it settle.
- Then smell the tester. The scent on the swab should be a good indicator of your breath.
Cheek Swab Method
The steps for this swabbing method are the same as the tongue swab, but swab your inner cheek in place of the back of your tongue.
This is an interesting method, but if you’re up for it, it does get the job done! Follow these steps to try it out:
- Before trying, make sure you have washed off any scents that may be lingering on your skin.
- (Here’s the interesting part). Give your wrist a good lick.
- After a moment, smell the area of skin containing your saliva.
This is the method we see people do in movies before heading out on a date and it may be the quickest and easiest way to test your breath for freshness. Here’s all it takes:
- Place your hand in front of your mouth, in a “cup” shape. Make sure it is nice and close.
- Breathe out with a loud hhh sound, as if you are trying to catch as much breath as you can with your hand. Because really, that is what you are trying to do here.
- As quickly as you can, move your hand from your mouth up to your nose and breathe in to smell.
This method is not as reliable as the others, but does give you a good idea if there are particles left between your teeth that are causing odor. To try this one, use your floss as normal and then smell it after use. Though we must warn you, this will almost always be an exaggerated version of what your breath actually smells like since more often than not, you’re flossing away plaque that’s been there for a while.
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath
You have completed one of the breath-testing methods above and oh no - you have bad breath!
You must be chomping at the bit to get back to a fresh mouth (and maybe head out on a movie date of your own), so you’ll need to determine where your bad breath came from. We are here to help by providing you with some of the top breath offenders.
That’s right, those delicious garlic breadsticks just might be increasing the bacteria in your mouth and causing that unwanted odor. Besides garlic (which is a bad breath biggie), other major breath offenders are onions, spices, and certain cheeses.
How to improve breath odor caused by certain foods: Brushing after eating with a fresh and minty toothpaste can help combat odors from food. Drinking lots of water can also aid in freshness.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Starting to take care of your teeth, tongue and surrounding areas is one of the easiest but most important ways to combat bad breath. Letting your rituals slip and possibly turn into issues like cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease (all odorific issues) can cause consistent bad breath.
How to improve breath odor caused by poor oral hygiene: Brush often, floss daily, and don’t forget to brush your tongue, and you will absolutely experience improvement in the smell of your breath! Make sure to always keep up a good oral care routine--you can make this easier on yourself by using the right toothpaste that of course has that minty freshness, but also provides anticavity benefits!
The right amount of saliva production can help keep your breath smelling fresh as it naturally rinses your mouth and teeth, washing away unwanted food particles, while keeping the PH of our mouth well-balanced. A condition called xerostomia causes the reduction of saliva and the occurrence of dry mouth.
How to improve breath odor caused by dry mouth: It is easy to find products that can assist in managing dry mouth. From mouthwashes targeted at healthy saliva production to saliva substitutes and stimulants, there are ways to improve your breath and get your saliva production flowing!
Beyond the simple fact that having your lungs and mouth filled with smoke throughout the day will obviously cause the smell of smoke to linger on breath, using tobacco products has been linked to gum disease, which is another breath offender.
How to improve breath odor caused by tobacco use: To answer simply, improve your breath by discontinuing the use of tobacco products. The health benefits will go far beyond breath improvement!
These are pretty much exactly as the name would make it seem. Tonsil stones are small stone-like masses trapped in the folds of your tonsils. These tiny stones are covered in bacteria that can cause some major breath woes.
How to improve breath odor caused by tonsil stones:
You can prevent and/or remove tonsil stones in a few ways.
One way to remove and prevent the occurrence of tonsil stones is by gargling regularly with an alcohol-free mouthwash. Salt-water and apple cider vinegar gargling may be effective, also.
To manually remove stones, you may enlist the help of a cotton swab. Do this by dampening the swab and using it to sweep stones from your tonsils. (Stop if bleeding occurs!)
If a gargling is not effective and the idea of touching your tonsils is too much for you, another option for clearing out stones is by using a gentle water irrigator. The slight pressure of water flowing toward your tonsils will help thoroughly rinse them without making physical contact with a foreign object.
Time for New Toothpaste
Maybe you have been brushing, flossing, and rinsing but you still just can’t get rid of lingering bad breath. You may have a toothpaste issue. While natural toothpaste is our go-to, some brands don’t use the right amount of the ingredients needed to keep your breath smelling fresh.
How to improve breath odor caused by too mild toothpaste: Rather than brushing multiple times to feel clean, just find the right toothpaste! You don’t have to sacrifice a fresh feeling mouth and minty cool breath for a no-nonsense toothpaste. We make two toothpastes we love, both with exceptional flavors (wintergreen peppermint and minty vanilla lavender), all the stain and cavity fighting power you need, and no unnecessary ingredients. Did we mention it’s vegan?
There you have it! If you used one of our methods for testing out your breath and found out that you need a little help in the freshness department, now you’ve found it. And not only that, you have the tools you need to keep it cool!