Mind your mouth

JOANNE RICHARD, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

If your corporate climb is a grind and the sweet smell of success is wafting in another direction, then put down the cup of java and open wide!

Corporate coffee breath could be brewing - and can blow your career. Bad breath of any kind is bad for business and your love life too.

We love our coffee - nine out of 10 Canadians drink it daily, downing an average of 3.2 cups per day.

A strong cup of java is a leading contributor to bad breath and few of us know it, says Dr. Harold Katz. "Coffee affects our breath because it is acidic and acids can stimulate the growth of the anaerobic sulfur-producing bacteria at the core of bad breath."

Adding sugar and milk stimulates stench: "The bacteria grow after digesting sugar and they also have the ability to extract sulfur compounds from dairy proteins," says Katz, a bad breath guru, adding that tea is a better choice because it is pH neutral.

"A very significant number of my patients have gotten fired from their jobs, after numerous complaints from co-workers," says Katz, adding bad breath has even led to divorce because their spouse could no longer take the odour.

A Harlequin Survey reveals that 49% of men and 62% of women consider bad breath to be their number one romantic turnoff. "Almost everything related to romance, except for the roses and the music, can cause bad breath," including alcohol, wine, chocolates and rich desserts.

Maintaining a moist mouth is ideal for life 'n' love, says Katz, adding that a dry mouth is a main contributor to bad breath.

"Your mouth is the 'doorway to the rest of your body'," says Katz. "Just as we judge the cleanliness of someone's home by the tidiness of their entryway, the same thought works with our body."

It doesn't matter how well dressed or well-groomed someone is, bad breath blows away their whole image. "Good grooming, good looks and good hair are no guarantee of fresh breath," says Katz, of www.therabreathcanada.com.

Personal smell overall imparts a powerful message. "Odours have a long-lasting impression - good or bad, they tend to stick in our memory forever."

According to Joanne Blake, next to body odour, bad breath is one of the most difficult subjects to address with colleagues, employers or loved ones. "Furthermore, most of us have suffered from it unknowingly."

Blake, an image consultant, is called in to corporations to host workshops addressing the importance of impeccable hygiene and image.

According to studies, nearly 50% of bosses say they wouldn't hire someone if they had bad breath or bad teeth.

In a job interview situation, bad breath can definitely be career limiting move. "The recruiter is seeking someone that will represent the organization well, and if the candidate has bad breath it signals a lack of self awareness and poor hygiene," says Blake, a professional speaker and trainer specializing in social skills for business.

Katz adds that stress intensifies the brew and can trigger bad breath. "The sympathetic nervous system becomes highly activated and this causes an immediate decrease in saliva - and it's the saliva, with its high concentration of oxygen that keeps your breath fresh."

The more moist the mouth, the less chance of bad breath, he adds. "If your mouth loses as little as 1% of your saliva, anaerobic sulfur producing bacteria sense the difference and start to produce smelly sulfur compounds."

Good oral hygiene is critical yet it gets brushed aside - "most tooth brushing lasts 13 seconds. This is terrible because one should brush their teeth for about two minutes to make sure every surface is thoroughly cleaned."

Clue in to these tip-offs that you may have bad breath:

-people constantly offer you mints

-they lean or turn away from you when you're speaking to them

-they scrunch up their nose

-your firm has hired an image consultant to improve your image

-Courtesy of image specialist Joanne Blake.

Take a deep breath

Telling someone they have bad breath is no easy task. Tread lightly!

There are ways to have courageous conversations with someone you are close to, and care about, according to image expert Joanne Blake:

"I've noticed that occasionally you have bad breath. Because I care for you I want you to know so it doesn't stand in the way of your success."

Ask "how are you feeling today?" If they say, "fine. Why?" You say, "your breath is a bit off today."

Meanwhile, Dr. Harold Katz recommends his Tell a Friend program on www.therabreathcanada.com. It's an anonymous way of letting someone know about their bad breath.

The offender is sent an email - "very sympathetic, understanding and definitely not insulting - telling them the facts about bad breath and how to keep their breath fresh," says Katz.

He says in long-term business relationships, the offender needs to know that they have a problem. "In a small percentage of cases, you may be able to confront the other person and tell them point blank that they have a problem," says the breath expert.

He also suggests offering them a glass of water - a moist mouth diminishes bad breath.

Another idea: Katz, creator of breath mints called Mouth-Wetting Lozenges, recommends putting out the lozenges in a dish on the desk. "If you reach for one, they may do the same."

Be a smart mouth:

Drink more water.

Avoid sugar - it feeds various bacteria.

Avoid alcohol - not only adult beverages, but commercial mouthwash containing alcohol.

Use oxygenating oral products, i.e. TheraBreath and TheraBrite.

Floss - it can add five years to your life.

Think you have bad breath?

So to find out, you cup your hand, blow into it and then take a deep whiff? "Great technique - if you want to smell your hand," says Dr. Harold Katz.

You cannot smell your own breath, stresses Katz. So here's how to test: Lick the back of your hand and let it dry for five seconds and then take a whiff of the area.

"The reason that works is that the sulfur compounds of bad breath are soluble in saliva. Once the liquid evaporates from the back of your hand, sulfur compounds will stick to your hand," says the breath expert.

A great taste in your mouth is no guarantee of great fresh smelling breath. "Sadly, many people suck on sweet, minty breath mints and really believe that their breath will smell sweet and minty. Wrong! The sugar in breath mints, chewing gum and candies actually feed those nasty anaerobic bacteria that create bad breath.

"You're just giving yourself stinky breath - and wasting your money too!"


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