You might have participated with us earlier this week as we celebrated National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day. Our useful videos are still available on Facebook.
The purpose of National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day is to appreciate oral hygiene and its importance by keeping breath fresh for 12 hours.
Below is a journal of my participation, documenting the day’s unexpected challenges, breath-freshening tactics and tips for determining if your breath is actually fresh.
After a shower, I brushed and flossed my teeth. I followed techniques we wrote about here. Once I’d finished, I checked my mouth. My tongue had a white film on it, which indicated bad breath. I scrubbed my tongue with a toothbrush, as one of the leading culprits of bad breath is gunk collecting on the tongue.
After I finished brushing, though, the white film remained. I needed to come up with a more effective trick.
I had some mints handy, so I popped a couple of those and headed out the door.
At the office, I tried a tongue cleaner, which I’d bought at a grocery store on the way to work.
The tongue cleaner was simple: a ring attached to a handle, kind of like a bubble blower. I stuck my tongue out, pressed the cleaner against the back of it and pulled forward. As I did, a yellowish saliva formed in the fold of my tongue. The yellowish color was from a buildup of bacteria that had accrued overnight. The saliva became trapped in the ring, which made the cleaner look even more like a bubble blower: one that had been dipped in bubble solution.
As a man who brushes regularly, I was shocked by how gross my tongue was.
I poured a cup of coffee. As an unapologetic not-morning person, I need the caffeine. Unfortunately, strong-smelling drinks like coffee can lead to bad breath. I’d have to act soon. But first, I was going to enjoy me some coffee.
Coffee finished, I tested my breath.
At first, I used the age-old method of covering my mouth and nose with my hand and breathing into my palm. I didn’t smell anything, though.
Having just had coffee, I didn’t trust those results. I tried the lick test. The lick test is useful, because you can be pretty discreet about it. Simply lick your wrist, wait for it to dry, then smell it.
My breath didn’t smell nearly as bad as I anticipated.
I considered more mints. But the mints contained sugar, and sugar can be a breeding ground for bacteria. I had a stick of sugar-free xylitol gum instead.
Of all the days to meet a friend for lunch — and at an Indian buffet, no less! I loaded up on butter chicken, chicken curry, aloo palak, methi paneer and garlic naan. Strongly flavored foods with lots of spices may taste delicious, but they can also lead to bad breath.
Luckily, the restaurant offered pan mukhwas by the front door. Pan mukhwas is an assortment of fennel seeds and other Indian seeds. I asked the waiter more about it. He explained that not only do the seeds freshen breath, they can soothe an overfull stomach. I tried a handful. They tasted like black licorice.
Back in the office, I asked some friends if they’d be willing to check my breath.
They politely declined.
So I tried the spoon test. Scraping my tongue with a spoon, I admired the nice saliva sample I left on the plastic rim. Then I sniffed the spoon. I didn’t smell anything. Perhaps the pan mukhwas had worked.
At this point, it was time for a mid-afternoon snack. I prepared a plate of celery. Celery can ward off bad breath, because it’s fiber-rich and increases saliva production. Some people even call it nature’s dental floss!
Unfortunately for my coworkers, there is no quiet way to munch celery.
I tested for bad breath again.
At first, I tried the cheek-pulling method. I grabbed my cheeks and pulled them away, exposing my teeth. Then I pressed the pulled-back skin against my teeth. I tried this a few times and couldn’t smell anything. I wasn’t sure if it meant I had fresh breath or if I had a terrible sense of smell or if I wasn’t doing it right or if the technique just doesn’t work.
I opted instead to place a cotton ball on the back of my tongue. But it stuck when I tried to pull it away, and I had to fish cotton from my mouth.
The results, however, were fairly accurate. When I sniffed the cotton ball, it smelled like a combination of fennel seeds and celery. My breath was pretty fresh!
As I finished another mug-full of water, I marked on a piece of paper how much I’d consumed. One cause of bad breath is dry mouth, so throughout the day, I’d drunk lots of water. By 5 p.m., I’d charted just shy of a gallon: about 115 ounces.
I finally arrived at 12 hours. Though it may have been subjective as to whether I’d maintained fresh breath all day, I hadn’t received any complaints, so I was willing to chalk that up as a win!
Truth was, National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day seemed more about the absence of bad breath than having breath that smelt pleasant.
In either case, I felt like I was treating my smile healthily, which boosted my confidence.
Of course, another culprit of bad breath is periodontal disease. I’d have to make sure to schedule a regular visit to my dentist!