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Bad breath and how to tell someone tactfully that their breath is less than fresh?

Telling someone they have bad breathEven though you can control your bad breath by using speciality breath fresheners, mouth wash that is alcohol free and by making oral care pro-Biotics part of your oral hygiene routine, you can however not control the bad breath of others around you. Chances are that if you work in an office environment you would have encountered someone with bad breath.

Sometimes a smell caused by bad breath can be so bad that it actually distracts you from doing/completing your work. This is when you need to know how to approach the individual who is responsible for the smell that is caused by bad breath. You will need to confront them in an effective but kind way, as ten to one they probably already know that they have a bad breath problem. Here are some tips on how to do do it.

Be serious and direct
According to psychologist Eve Ash, it is better to talk to the person that has bad breath directly. If you try to throw hints at them such as leaving alcohol-free mouth wash on their desk or cracking silly jokes it will only make the person with bad breath feel self conscious and embarrassed about their bad breath problem.
Try to imagine that you had a bad breath problem and then think of how you would want someone to approach you with the issue. That would probably be the same way that they would want to be approached also. To avoid lashing out at them at a later stage, try to handle the situation as soon as you can. People have been known to leave it for months and then by the time they do tell the person usually comes out in a nasty way, because they feel like they have been tortured by this situation for too long. It could help if you tell them that you feel uncomfortable talking to them about this but that you prefer to be direct and that you don’t want anyone talking behind their back about it.

Choose your words wisely
Even though you now know how to approach a person with bad breath, you still have to be careful about how and what you say. Here are some pointers to follow to get the correct phrasing.

You need to talk to the person in private. Try to explain that this problem has work related implications. For example that you have noticed that because of the bad odour emitting from their mouth they cannot interact properly with their co-workers, or that you have noticed that other co-workers are distracted from doing their work because of the bad smell.

You can also try to use phrases that let them know that you are doing this for their own benefit. For example you could say that you are telling them this because it is important for them to know or you could say that if you had bad breath you would have wanted to know.

Remember never to use words such as stinky or smelly – stick to using the word strong odour. Also never bring in cultural or gender issues because this could lead to serious legal issues in the work place.

If you do not feel comfortable talking to the person because you don’t know them that well or if you are unsure of how they will react, you could take the matter to the human resource department if your company has one.

If you see that the conversation is going well you could mention that they use alcohol free mouth wash and how it can help them to get rid of the bad breath.


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Please send us a message or call us on 010 492 7370 or 076 422 5456 in an emergency.

Please send us a message or call us on 010 492 7370 or 076 422 5456 in an emergency.

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