Pucker Up!

If your lips are inviting but your breath isn't, what should you do? Here, experts share tricks and tips to keep your mouth irresistibly kissable throughout your date — and beyond.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

"I was on a date with a cab driver who picked me up in his cab," recalls Christine Pembleton, a personal coach and president of the Phoenix-based business, Ready to Be a Wife. "The car turned a corner and I was smacked in the face with a foul odor. It took me awhile to finally realize it was his breath. I thought I was at a safe distance, but that breath was powerful. Because of that, I couldn't consider him for anything romantically after our
Definitely remember to clean your tongue with your toothbrush.

August 6 is National Fresh Breath Day. Don't we all agree that this is something we should strive for every day? Whether it's a biological condition or food-based, any of us can potentially fall victim to having the kind of breath that makes our date pucker — and not in the pre-kiss kind of way. So how can we avoid being an unknowing bearer of bad-breath news? Try these three tips:

1. Do the basics.
"Practicing better at-home oral hygiene is hands down the best way to resolve food-related bad breath," says Greg Diamond, a periodontist with The Diamond Schlesinger Group in New York. "Flossing is incredibly important for removing tucked-away particles of food that might not budge with a regular brushing."

2. Tend to your tongue.
"Definitely remember to clean your tongue with your toothbrush," says Gigi Meinecke, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry who practices in Potomac, MD. "That's where many of the VSC — volatile sulfur compounds — sit. Those are the molecules that cause bad breath."

3. Ask your dentist.
The vast majority of the 65 million Americans who have bad breath don't even know it, Diamond explains. "The most important step anyone can take for the health of their dating life — as well as their overall health — is to be proactive about seeing a dental specialist. Come right out
A sprig of parsley snuck from your plate will work just as well.
and ask them if you have bad breath, and if it's most likely tied to a biological or behavioral factor."

When your dentist or hygienist isn't around, you can always test yourself. "You can discreetly lick the inside of your wrist, wait a few minutes, and then give it the sniff test," Meinecke says. But, she warns, "If your bad breath is from post-nasal drip or allergies, you won't get an accurate reading… meaning, it may not smell bad to you."

Your best bet? Good maintenance at home and regular visits to your dentist, plus a few strategic on-the-date tactics:
  • "Chew sugar-free gum to promote the flow of saliva and rinse your mouth out with water," Diamond says. Indulge in just a few chews, then dispose of the gum in some way that doesn't draw any attention.
  • "Head for the nearest bartender and ask for a lime, an orange or a lemon wedge and discreetly squeeze its juice onto your tongue," counsels Constance Dunn, a presentation specialist based in Los Angeles, CA. The wait staff can also set you up with a few mint leaves, depending on the menu, or "a sprig of parsley snuck from your plate will work just as well" if nothing else is available.
  • "Keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water," Dunn emphasizes. "Water, not cola or booze or a latte. These will just make the mouth dryer, and a dry mouth is rarely a pleasant one, breath-wise."
"Recall the times when you have sidled up to some extraordinarily attractive person only to recoil and scurry away after getting an inhalation of the sour heat emitting from his or her mouth," Dunn says. "Few things can cause a faster tumble from 10 to 2 on the glamour scale than terrible breath." Following these tips will ensure you're not the one emitting the toxic odor.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in Carrboro, N.C. who never leaves the house without some breath mints.
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