Dear Mary Pat,
An acquaintance of mine continuously has really bad breath, and it is really unbearable sometimes. To make matters worse, she is a close talker and just comes closer every time I try to discreetly back up. She’s not really a friend, more of a work associate, so I don’t feel comfortable saying anything to her. There are times when it is so bad that I have to stifle the urge to gag. What can I do?
It Ain’t Smellin Like Roses
Sturgeon Bay, WI
Dear It Ain’t Smellin Like Roses,
This is not the first time I’ve received a question like this. There are several things that are recommended when you encounter someone with bad breath. Some are more effective than others. Everyone should use their best judgment based on how well they know a person.
1) Have strong mints at the ready, such as Altoids, and offer them to your associate. One of two things will happen. She will take the hint after the 5th time you offer her a mint in her presence and hopefully look into a permanent cure or the mint will be an immediate solution to an unpleasant problem.
2) If you are not close enough to a person to tell them of the problem, find someone who is. A well-meaning, quiet word to a good friend wouldn’t be out of line. Sometimes bad breath is a temporary problem, sometimes it is an indicator of a much bigger health problem. Since people with bad breath never seem to be able to smell it on themselves, you may be helping someone recognize a problem they didn’t know they had.
3) The third option is somewhat controversial, and I myself am of two minds about it. There are several websites out there that will send anonymous e-cards to repeat breath offenders. It is a way to tell someone on the sly that their breath is unacceptable to others. If sent out of care and concern, they could be an effective tool. If sent out of mischief, they could easily be abused and leave people feeling targeted and hurt.
I wish you luck in selecting a solution. Remember, as one of the wisest men in the county recently said to me, “Bad breath is better than no breath.”