By: Dr. Trina Read
“It is an irony, appreciated only by the French, that good manners are the basis of very good sex. In bed, the two most erotic words in any language are ‘thank you’ and ‘please.’” Hubert Downs
Bad breath has ruined many a romantic and sexy mood. Yet in the world of sex etiquette, who is responsible to take charge of said breath? Is it the smeller who is making an odor value judgment or the person with the halitosis?
Walking through arrivals at the airport, I was greeted by a full on Hollywood kiss. Being a girl, I was really digging it and knew at once I must savor this moment because it does not happen often. As I heard the curious crowd “oh & ah”, I tried not to let the tears starting to form in my eyes appear so obvious. When the embrace was done and I came up for air, it took everything I had not to gag.
You see, my knight in shining armor’s breath smelled (and tasted for that matter) like he had consumed an entire bulb of garlic at his recent supper.
Being a pragmatic gal, I thought to myself, “If he had been planning such a grand romantic gesture, why was the teensy matter of his breath forgotten?” Even if it had been a spur-of-the-moment inclination, in my world it is common sense to pop a breath mint after said supper before having contact with other human beings.
In the girl form of locker room talk (a.k.a. having coffee), many a gal has recounted how they could not enjoy a romantic evening because her guy’s breath was repulsive. In trying to remedy the situation, they gave what they felt were obvious hints, like offering him a stick of gum, sprig of parsley or whatever breath freshener was available. They then were confounded that he just did not get it.
(Please note: I am certain men have their own halitosis date challenges too.)
When I asked why they did not just come out and tell him straight about the offending breath, a look of horror appeared on their faces as they sputtered, “I just couldn’t.”
Biting my tongue and feeling a bit sheepish, I thought of how I would have rather chewed off my arm than confront my garlic-loving prince at the airport. My inner romantic girl voice screamed that, if I told him, he would become discouraged enough never to want to do something I relish.
There are some things in this life that do not make much sense. Telling another human being with whom you are getting up close and personal that they have breath that could peel paint seems to be one of them. I decided to conduct an informal study—okay, so it was mostly friends and relatives that were within earshot while writing this article—on why it is so difficult to tell someone they have bad breath. There was complete consensus on why: nobody wanted to embarrass the other person, thereby breaking the romantic mood.
Let me get this straight. They do not say anything because they do not want to break up a romantic mood that is already completely destroyed. Hmmm. To add insult to injury, as soon as turtle breath is out of earshot, the victim will go on about said bad breath to anyone who will listen to their woeful story. It is like living in a Seinfeld episode.
Coming back to my question of who should take charge of a bad breath situation, there are a couple of things to think about. First, ask yourself if the breath is a one-off event (like the airport scene) or is it chronic? If it is the latter, a trip to the dentist may be in order.
Next, ask if there is a laxness to the personal oral care regime. Think back to the start of a new relationship, when many a person silently crept out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to brush their teeth (or at least swipe toothpaste with their fingers over teeth) so their partner would wake up and experience “toothpaste kisses” first thing.
Today, outside of the work environment, is a second thought ever given to quality of breath? Or is it presumed your partner will love you regardless?
In fact, I have a theory that one of the reasons couples lose the desire to passionately kiss each other after many years together is because they do not make such a fuss over their breath.
Good sex is all about preparation and the little things that make a big difference. If you want to get romantic and think you might have bad breath, simply lick the inside of your wrist and sniff. If you do not like what you smell, immediately do something to alleviate the situation.
If nothing else make sure to keep a pack of Listerine PocketPaks at your bedside table when things start heating up…so they can stay heated up.
Relationship and sexual health expert, Dr. Trina Read, is the founder of sexual health resource www.VivaXO.com and www.TrinaRead.com/SensualTastes. She is host and producer www.EatDrinkLoveTV.com, Recipes for Love TV and a CBC radio relationship columnist.