Could You Have Bad Breath Today?
It’s yet another Monday morning (or Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.). You wake up, brush your teeth, swish mouthwash and run out the door. On your way to work, you pop a mint, and once you’re there, you chew gum incessantly. But as you fly through your morning meetings and deadlines, the question creeps in the back of your head: Could you still have bad breath?
It’s a valid concern: Chronically bad breath (halitosis) affects approximately 25 percent of Americans.
But did you know that almost just as many (about 16 to 25 percent) of those who seek professional help for bad breath suffer from something else -- fear of bad breath (halitophobia)?
Unfortunately, halitophobia often masks a bigger problem. People who’ve had bad breath before can become almost paranoid that they haven’t fully solved the problem. And for many others, “social anxiety or obsessive-compulsive traits may be what’s causing people to focus excessively on their breath,” says Sheela Raja, a University of Illinois assistant professor with a doctorate in clinical psychology.
How can you tell if bad breath or fear itself is the issue?
Ask a trusted friend to smell your breath. Better yet, have your dentist examine your mouth and breath. If she assures you your breath smells fine but you’re still overly worried about it, “look at your thoughts and challenge them,” suggests Raja. “What evidence do you have that this is an issue?”
Can’t get a grip on these fears on your own? See a mental health professional -- cognitive behavioral therapy is proven to help.
“If having sugar-free mints or gum helps you gain confidence, that’s fine,” says Raja. “But if you’re at the point where this is starting to interfere with your life or causing you to isolate yourself socially, that’s a problem.”
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