How To Tell Someone They Have Bad Breath

a couple talking

When to say it, how to say it, and where to say it.

We have all been there - you want to be close to a special person in your life, but they have something that keeps you at a distance: Bad breath! It can be difficult to associate regularly with someone who has chronic bad breath, and it may be even more difficult to tell them of this embarrassing problem of which they are seemingly unaware. It is important to be considerate of their feelings and treat them the way that you would like to be treated if you were in their situation. In this article we will go over what to do and what not to do when letting someone know that they have bad breath.

When you shouldn't tell someone their breath smells

Before we go into strategies on letting someone know they have bad breath, it is important to know when to not tell them their breath smells.

Do not tell someone they have bad breath...

Although in the above situations it is not a good idea to tell them they have bad breath, it is perfectly acceptable to help them out by offering them a mint or a piece of gum without telling them they have smelly breath.

Strategies for letting them know they have bad breath

There are several different ways of letting someone know they have bad breath. Determining which method is the best for you depends on your comfort level with the person, how close you are to them, and the time and place.

General rules:
The closer you are to the person, the more direct you should be.
The more regular the problem, the more direct you should be.

Being direct

It may be a good idea to try dropping hints before telling someone about their bad breath directly. If you have dropped many hints and they still have bad breath all the time it might be time to directly tell them. By being direct, it avoids any confusion that dropping hints may cause and it is the most effective way of helping them.

Gently let them know

There are different ways of being direct and it depends on the situation on which to use, but in any case you should avoid using colorful adjectives or similes to describe their breath. For example: don't say stuff like "your breath smells like vomit/sewer gas/rotten eggs', 'have you been eating rancid animal feces?', or 'your breath reeks/stinks'. Although you might think it is funny and they may laugh it off, it will hurt them more than if you had gently let them know their breath was bad. Here are some gentle ways of letting them know they have bad breath:

To start the conversation you can use one of these phrases:

"I noticed a problem and wasn't sure if you're aware..."
"Sorry to mention this, but..."
"If I had this problem I would want someone to tell me..."
"I'm sorry, but..."

Then you let them know with one of these phrases:

"You need to brush your teeth."
"You need a breath mint/stick of gum"
"Your breath smells a bit off."
"You have a problem with bad breath."
"You have bad breath."

After (or before) you let them know, it wouldn't be a bad idea to tack on a term of endearment such as: honey, dear, sweetie, etc.

Combine these phrases to create a sentence you believe would fit the situation best. A complete example could be something like this:

"Honey ... I noticed a problem and wasn't sure if you're aware ... your breath smells a bit off."

Be aware of your tone

You communicate not only through the words you say, but also through your body language and tonality. Don't have a dramatic, demeaning, or critical attitude when you tell them. Be compassionate, loving, and understanding to them.

Help them out

After you let them know of their bad breath problem it is important that you help them with it. Be completely honest while answering questions they may have. Offer them a mint, gum, floss, or to brush their teeth. If they are at your place buy them a toothbrush that they can keep there to use when they come over.

Another way to help them is to reveal to them that you used to have the same problem. Let them know that everyone has this problem at one time or another and then offer some solid remedies that have worked for you in the past. Tell them of specific products or techniques that have helped you. Tell them about this very website and point them specifically to our main articles on What Causes Bad Breath and more importantly How To Get Rid of Bad Breath.

Explain to them that they may have a dental issue, an infection or a health problem, and that they should make an appointment with a dentist.

Dropping hints

Dropping hints is an excellent way of letting them know that they have bad breath without actually telling them. Dropping hints works well when you are not close to the person, the person is only suffering from temporary halitosis, or when it isn't the time or place to tell them directly that they have bad breath. Some say there is no better way to "tell" someone something than getting them to think it for themselves. Dropping subtle hints works well, but we all know how hard it can be to think up hints that will get the person thinking about their breath without being too blunt. Dropping hints is usually less embarrassing for both parties, but the downside is that they may not get the hint. Here are some different ways to drop a hint that they have bad breath:

Pretend you have the problem

A good way to hint at something is to pretend that YOU'RE the one with the problem. If you're talking about yourself, you can't offend anyone else. Since you're obviously not the one with bad breath, the other person will wonder why you're talking about your own breath, and will then start thinking about their own breath.

Here are a couple of practical examples of things you could say to get someone thinking about their bad breath without offending them:

"What's that smell, is it my breath?"
"Hey, do I have bad breath today?"
"Is it just me or does my breath smell?"

Upon finding out that you DON'T have bad breath; the other person should start wondering why you asked a question like that, and arrive at the conclusion that it is their own breath that smells.

They may respond to one of the above questions with, "No. Do I?" or "No, does mine?" in which case you could offer to "take a smell" (pretending, of course) and then inform that that it actually does smell a "bit off."

Another way to pretend you have the problem is by talking about a product that has solved your bad breath. The following is an example of this:

"I just got these awesome breath mints. Have you tried these yet? A friend of mine told me that I have corpse breath - who knew?! Anyway, these things are amazing. I'm sharing them with everyone. Try one and see if it doesn't make your breath a thousand times better."

Offer them a mint/stick of gum

This is the easiest way of dropping a hint that they have bad breath, but also the least obvious. This method is great if you are not close to the person or if they are just suffering from temporary halitosis. In order to do this just causally offer them a mint or piece of gum. To be even more subtle, take one yourself before offering them one too. If the person declines and you really want them to get the hint, you can say something like, "You know... when a friend offers you a mint, you really should take it."

Practice oral hygiene in front of them

This is a great way of letting others know that you think fresh breath and proper oral hygiene is important to you without telling them directly that their breath smells. Here are various ways to do this:

If the person who has bad breath is a close friend or lover: After you eat a meal with them, once you get to their or your place, pull out some floss and say something like: "Would it weird you out if I flossed my teeth right now? I hate when I have the feeling that something is stuck in my teeth. Would you like some?" Then you can laugh at how silly the both of you look like flossing your teeth together. A good line to lighten the mood is to jokingly say "This is soooo romantic!" Once you have established that oral care is important to you, ask if you could leave a toothbrush at their place and offer to give them their own personal toothbrush to leave at your place. After meals you can brush your teeth together. It might be awkward at first but everyone enjoys fresh breath and they will appreciate it. Many girls I have done this with think it is cute that we floss and brush our teeth together and that she has her own toothbrush at my place.

If the person who has bad breath is a co-worker: Brush your teeth in the bathroom after lunch. When my co-workers saw me brushing my teeth in the bathroom they laughed at me at first in a joking manner, but the next week two of them were there brushing their teeth with me. If they are a member of the opposite sex then you can show them your oral care on-the-go kit and say something like - "I know I am weird, but I just can't stand not brushing my teeth after I eat", then go and brush your teeth.

Hopefully, showing your fanaticism for fresh breath will make them self-conscious of their own breath and encourage them to practice better oral care.

Getting help from another person

One way to let a person know that they have bad breath is by telling one of their close friends or relatives. Most of the time people are not as offended when someone close tells them about their bad breath. If you feel as though you are close enough to that person, then you could possibly be the one to break the bad breath news.

Recruit a child - Receiving bad news from an adorable child is not as painful as receiving the news from a peer. If possible, offer a cute child (younger the better) to tell the person that he or she has bad breath in exchange for a piece of candy. It's a win for you, and a win for the kid, and it might be easier for the person receiving the news.

Leave an anonymous note

This is a good tactic especially if you are not close to the person. You can leave a note in their locker, desk, book, or anywhere where they are sure to see it. Be careful that you put it in a place where others will not stumble upon it, as that can make a private matter public. Here are some example notes you can use:

"I noticed a problem that you might not be aware of. You have a problem with bad breath. This doesn't change the fact that I think you are awesome. It's just that if I had this problem, I would want someone to tell me."

You can also send an anonymous email to them by going to our page: Anonymously Tell Someone They Have Bad Breath.

If you like a particular method or have a good one you tell people then please tell us by commenting below. Thanks!

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Comments (48)
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by Susan Morgan on Oct 19, 2016 | 4:50 PM

Just a suggestion that its also good to focus on the gut system health. check wheather whatever you eat is good or bad for your gut system. it need to be healthy since it holds the greatest percentage of your immune system. Sometimes it can get inflamed by candida over growth, bacteria and parasites. Check what natural foods to use e.g bone broth heals the gut system and other things. You also in this case need to eliminate sugar, glutten foods and grains.
One also need to take natural products that cleanse kidney and remove toxins from the body. e.g stinging nettle, moringa e.t.c research to see more and how to take these natural products.
Natural products that cleanse the liver.
Read about FOOD GRADE diatomous earth and see how it works and then make a decision.

by ten a. on Jun 25, 2016 | 5:03 PM

Even though I brush my teeth after every meal, I still have bad breath. I try to keep my mouth healthy, but still smell bad to others. I've gone to the doctor several times to have my mouth, earths, throat and lungs checked. I'm told that I am healthy. I don't know what to do about my breath.

by Alex on Jun 21, 2016 | 2:01 PM


i tried these methods but its not working ...

by angel on Jun 18, 2016 | 6:47 PM


Antifungal – If Candida/yeast is a problem
take a form of antifungal in either Grape Seed
Extract, Garlic, Pau d’ Arco etc. I personally
drink the Pau d’Arco tea.
Now I’m Fecal BB Free, I’m able to talk to
people, make new friends, going out. The
people who used to cover their noses now
get in my face with zero reactions. It’s
Conclusion – My conclusion is our digestive
system is significantly impaired and is the
main cause of the Fecal BB. While I do not
know exactly how or why it causes this
problem in some people, I do believe that
resolving the problems by putting back Good
bacteria, killing yeast overgrowth, using
digestive enzymes and regularizing bowel
moments will help cure this problem.
I didn’t want to believe Candida was a real
problem either but I now do. But I noticed I
ALWAYS suffered from sore throats and ear
infections within 24 hour of binging on junk
foods. The constant bloating and cramping
has now 100% stopped. I even binged on
some junk foods a few days ago and I
experienced zero discomfort. Please let me
know if you have any questions. There is hope
out there for every single one of us. Keep
believing and know that God is ALWAYS
faithful. I cry and hurt sometimes thinking
about all the lost years, never going to prom,
etc but I’m just VERY grateful to have my life
back and to start LIVING life.

by copy and paste. on May 15, 2016 | 6:12 PM

Background – Fecal BB, started in highschool.
Now, 22 in last yr of College. Been suffering
for about 7 yrs. Took a lot of antibiotics
during preteen and teen yrs . I believe this is
what impaired my immune and digestive
system. Was treated for Hpylori and Acid
Reflux in late teens but didn’t help with Fecal
Feel your pain – I have experienced the same
things you are. My Fecal BB could fill up a
room. The who farted comments, the it
smells like ****, people opening windows,
covering noses etc. I however never had
Nasal BB or Body odor, it was only Fecal BB
when I talked. I have pretty much spent the
last years of my life not talking to people
other than family. School has been very tough
but I’m proud of myself for hanging in there.
Nothing helped- I have tried it all- Threelac,
Therabreath, Tri oral, Cholorphyll, etc You
name it – I have tried it. My room is like a
mini pharmacy. I have been treated for acid
reflux, hpylori, and nothing helped.
Other symptoms – Constant bloating and
cramps, IBS – constipation, Heartburn, bad
skin, heart burn, white tongue etc. Chronic
infections – Would always get a sore throat
and painful ear ache whenever I binged on
sugary/junk foods.
Breakthrough - I decided a few months ago
that I would try EXTREMELY hard to cure this
problem for once and for all, and do whatever
it takes. I spent hours each day doing
research. Learning as much as possible,
reading all the success stories. A major
breakthrough was realizing that even though it
was chronic, it was much worse at certain
times than others. Which got me thinking hard
and realizing that the times it was worse was
when I had eaten Red Meat, Dairy, Eggs or
Beans. This was a major Breakthrough and
eliminating these foods have been key, as
well as doing other things. Towards the
beginning of my diet, I also eliminated Fish
and Chicken but I have added them back
recently and still no Fecal BB.
Candida? - I was starting to doubt that
Candida was a real problem because nothing I
took for it worked and the diet seemed
impossible. Then I remembered reading that
someone cured their odor by taking a really
large dosage of probiotics. They experienced
die off symptoms and their odor went away.
This person had fecal BO, not BB. But I
decided to try it too, I took triple the dosage
of a good probiotic and boy oh boy did I
experience die off symtoms. It felt like a
really bad hangover, Bad headache/dizziness
but it went away after a few days and I have
had such a different/cleaner taste in my
mouth since then. I am now a believer in
Candida/yeast overgrowth.
Steps to Take –
1) STOP Right away Right now – ALL Dairy,
Red Meat, Egg and Beans (As well as any
high sulfur/ smelly foods)
2) If Candida/yeast is a problem – Stop All
sugars, junk and Alcohol.
3) Probiotics – Find a good probiotic, and
take double or triple the dosage. Use what
you feel is effective for you. Our digestive
systems are in much worse conditions than
others so our bodies require more. Remember
the BB is a symptom.
4) Constipation – Work towards becoming
more regular. You want to have at least 1
bowel movement a day. Taking blended
flaxseed with some fruit and drinking lots of
water has helped in keeping me regular. Plus
it is important to regularly flush out all the
toxins in your body.
5) Supplements – Take Calcium/Magnesium,
Zinc, B Complex, Niacin, Double dosage of
Vitamin C, and Biotin is said to help with
6) Digestive Enzymes – are a must. We need
help with digesting foods so it’s a good idea
to take this with every meal.
7) Antifung

by copy and paste. on May 15, 2016 | 6:07 PM

If one has tried everything and failled, try to focus on overgrowth of FUNGUAL INFECTION most especially the gut system. The doctors may not immediately recommend it but get one who can prescribe antifungual which has to be accompanied by strong probiotics. You also have to start anti fungual diet which you can Google and follow keenly. Sugar is a no no or anything that contains sugar, take gluten free meals. do not take high starches foods, you limit grains. Natural products that work are coconut oil this is known to cure fungul very effectively and also take coconut products, cinnamon and tumeric you boil it in water and then when its warm add lemon, Paul d arco tea. Google all this to know how they work, and side effects. Remember to always eat healthy. Try this and you will notice no bloating, constipation and you will have proper bowel movement, more energy, no brain fog. Study carefully scientific evidence on consumption of coconut oil coz there seem to be conflicting studies but for me it works.

by anonymous on May 15, 2016 | 5:49 PM

Bad Stinky Breath

My boyfriend's breath is so bad I havent kissed him in 5 years. I know u must b wondering. But it's true. I've tried the u need to floss and i floss in front of him every night or swish coconut oil in ur mouth for 20 min but he doesn't get the hint. It's so frustrating. Now lately i can't even have sex with him because i can't take the breathing on me. It is horrific. I am so miserable at home. I tell u i hv to keep the windows open even in winter because my whole living room will smell like bad breath. Meeting my friends is a no ko becaise i wld be embarrassed. He sometimes gets a wiff of it cause he will say the dog just ****ted and uts not dog shot it's his breath what he's smelling. I cant get in a closed car with him because i literally start gagging. Pls help. What else can i do. I don't want to hurt his feelings but I'm ready to just disappear and leave my apartment. HELP....

by Yvette on Apr 8, 2016 | 10:39 PM

Solution to bad breath that really works

I too used to suffer from really bad breath. My family and boyfriend used to tell me my breath smelled all the time despite me brushing, flossing, chewing gum, and using crest and listerine mouthwash.

After some research I found a great solution that you can purchase at the store: walgreens or walmart. It's called CloSYS pre-flavored mouthwash. I brush my teeth and tongue twice a day morning and night and use a capful of the mouthwash just in the morning after I brush. in the year that I have been using the CloSYS mouthwash my family and boyfriend have said my breath does not smell anymore and now I do not feel self conscience about my breath anymore.

If you don't believe it works you can read the reviews on amazon. I hope this helps you.

by Betty on Mar 10, 2016 | 11:18 AM

We all have bad breath. All I say when I'm about to meet up with my guy is , hey babe im going home to brush my teeth, you brush your teeth and tongue to so we can have a huge makeout session. My coworkers are nice, I haven't come across one with bad breath but if I did I would tell them their breath is kinda tinky and offer everyone gum not just them.

by Lauren on Mar 8, 2016 | 2:22 PM

bad breath

hi my age is 25 i have been suffering from bad breath last 8 years i have taken lots of medicine but in vain.i visited many dentist and ENT specialist they said every thing is fine.please tell me the soulation of bad breath what should i do thank you

by abdulaziz on Mar 4, 2016 | 3:39 AM

one out of hundred

by emmanuel on Mar 1, 2016 | 3:51 PM

sometimes people have periodical bad breath and they do not know about it.

by joyce on Jan 28, 2016 | 3:43 PM


by Jane. on Jan 28, 2016 | 3:13 PM

Great Advice!!

Don't be afraid to tell someone how you really feel about them, their body, or the condition of the air that exits their esophagus... What you really need to do is to just say it to their face. Do not use any type of technology to try to communicate it. Stand far enough away from them so that when they respond (whether it be positive or negative) you can't smell that obnoxious odor. Then, carefully articulate (so you don't have to repeat the words because that would be REAL awkward) the words: "YA BREATH STANK! IT SMELL LIKE HORSE A$$! YOU NEED TO BRUSH THAT $h!T!!!" Worked for me! :) By the way, (PRO tip) run away as fast as possible after

by Ben Dover on Jan 10, 2016 | 2:37 PM

This was a problem where I worked because everyone ate mints and everyone offered them around as our workplace was hot and people's mouths got dry. Drink lots of water to flush out bits of food from gaps in your teeth as they begin to rot and smell vile. Keep your mouth hydrated! Then there was this one guy who had a loose tooth that began to smell rotten. I never worked up the courage to tell him because I was scared he might tell me that mine was bad too :)

by jools on Jan 8, 2016 | 4:51 PM

Everyone on the planet has pongy breath at times,even the Pope and The Queen. Perhaps we should all wear face masks. Ever been on a crowded bus or in a packed train carriage and a bad breath merchant next to you yawns? Like,gross,man.

by Dogbreath on Nov 8, 2015 | 7:40 AM

I started dating this handsome white guy with great body. He is everything a girl wants, but gosh his breath smells. When i kiss him, it's like I'm crying out for Jesus. I gave him hints before, but that didnt work. I'm alway avoiding him and he is wondering why. Ok before i break up with him, i will kiss him one last time before i tell him the truth.

by sasha on Oct 8, 2015 | 6:21 AM

I'm by myself in a restaurant. .and reading these comments. I started laughing hysterically when I got to the squirrel comment...Thank u everyone thinks I'm crazy

by Maggie on Oct 5, 2015 | 11:55 AM

Leaving this article open when im with this man who is breath is so bad is an idea itself

by precious on Sep 10, 2015 | 10:43 PM

I think that the note is ok, but it should only b used in circumstances where u tried everything else- also, for those of u who have bb prooblems, try lumsis (i believe that is the brand name)- they have mouthwash and toothpaste but the most important thing that they have is breath strips- you put one on and ur good for like 3 hours! :) u could also try to have basil in a lot of the foods that u eat, as it will help to keep ur breath fresh

by Becky on Sep 7, 2015 | 2:31 AM

And NEVER leave an anonymous note. That's so mean!

by Henrietta on Sep 5, 2015 | 8:15 PM

If I was the person with bad breath I would not appreciate hints, causing be to guess what is going on. Just tell the person, with sensitivity, that their breath is very noticably unpleasant. Don't try to soften it with the 'phrases' recommended in this article, they are rude. Don't use endearments, as they are artificial and condescending. I'll be telling my good friend and coworker next week. We'll see how that goes.

by Henrietta on Sep 5, 2015 | 8:13 PM


Buy your friend some CB12 toothpaste. Tell you were so uber impressed by it. Get em to throw away whatever they ahve been using - or not. Does the trick!!!

by James on Sep 4, 2015 | 4:55 AM

If you're reading this, your breath stinks!

by Tarnish Smit on Aug 18, 2015 | 5:28 PM

i have the most beautiful gal...but her breath is quite the is not fair for real..

by ben on Aug 13, 2015 | 8:49 PM

I luv d guy bt I dnt knw hw to confront him

by zaynab on Aug 5, 2015 | 12:12 PM

I'd also suggest to get a tongue scraper and use it at least once or twice a day if you have bad breath.

Some people get a coating of bacterial gunk coating their tongues which is a major cause of bad breath. Many people seem to have OK tooth and gums but have stink breath from their pus and bacteria covered tongues.

by Scott on Jun 23, 2015 | 5:09 PM

I suffer from bb since a while ago. I have acid reflux and I also have sinusites . I have been treating my acid reflux and flushing my nose daily. I brush and floss my teeth regularly but it doesn't seem to help a lot. It does hurt a lot when I see someone covering their nose and mouth when I am talking. My girlfriend forced me to take a kind of yogurt when I was at her house, claiming that would help with my acid reflux, but I think she was just trying to help me with my bb

by Janaina on May 21, 2015 | 3:54 PM

Anonymous? No!

The anonymous note idea is a terrible idea! You'll spend sleepless nights wondering who left you a note. My tactic is, don't make it a big deal. Don't bring it up as if you've known about the issue for a while. I don't like the author's phrase, "I've noticed a problem and I'm not sure if you're aware" or "sorry to mention this".

When you're close to the person, act like you Just noticed the bad breath and state it, like you're mildly surprised. Something like "huh, babe, your breath is off, you maybe you have reflux or sinuses?". Then go back to what you're doing like nothing happened. Your partner will appreciate that 1) you're not making it a big deal, and 2) that you'll tell her as soon as something is off and will have peace in mind.

by Tony on May 12, 2015 | 1:47 AM

I am a dentist. This is for Edith. There is a condition call pregnancy gingivitis. Due to hormonal changes, your gums are inflame and bleed easily. On some extreme cases, your dentist might have to laser your gum to help with the inflammation and rinse with antimicrobial mouthwash.
The primary cause of bad breath is gum disease. Tell your coworker or dates that you are going to see your dentist. Insert as part of your conversation if they have one and give them the contact number of your dentist. Most of the time, people are just afraid or neglect to go see their dentist for a long time. You are helping them in the long run.

by Janice on Apr 29, 2015 | 12:28 PM

Hi, i actually have this problem especially when pregnant as my gums bleed and am aware of it, i try so hard to practice oral hygiene but doesnt help, when my husband tells me, i get upset coz he is so insensitive about it, we dont kiss anymore. What can i do about it, i use mouthwash, i brush and floss twice a day, but nothing helps....

by Edith on Apr 28, 2015 | 1:52 PM

This is interesting. My problem is my new boss. He is a great guy and good fun but it is a chronic problem and we are in a small office. None of this advice really covers this relationship and I don't know his wife/any of his friends to approach them. I have been voted as the girl for the job by the office! Any tips?

by Susie on Mar 15, 2015 | 4:57 PM
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