Could YOU Tell A Co-Worker They Have Bad Breath?

Posted on Jun 27, 2012 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

QUESTION: “A co-worker always has bad breath, even though she’s always chewing gum. Is there a way I can hint to her in a kind way?”
Answered By Dr. William Claiborne, Periodontal Specialist

It’s always awkward trying to help someone understand they have a problem as offensive as bad breath. Even when bad breath is an occasional problem, it’s embarrassing.

You indicate your co-worker’s bad breath is constant, not just after a tuna sandwich lunch or a morning of coffee. Plus, she chews gum constantly. Because her breath is bad all the time, I suspect that she has periodontal disease. Bad breath is a symptom of gum disease and can’t be camouflaged by mouth rinses or even brushing for very long. It can also have a slightly different odor than “typical” bad breath.

The constant gum chewing indicates that your co-worker may know she has a problem. Someone may have already told her that her breath is bad and she is trying to keep it fresh. Or, her gums may be bleeding, another symptom of gum disease. She may be trying to keep saliva flowing in her mouth to mask the bad taste.

If she suspects she has gum disease, she may be avoiding periodontal care because of fear of pain or even financial constraints. We find these issues cause many to avoid or delay much needed treatment. Most are unaware that today’s periodontal treatment can be provided with virtually no discomfort.

Additionally, treatment costs not covered by insurance can often be spread out through payment plans. We also try to help patients understand that the earlier treatment occurs, the lower the cost. Periodontal disease will never get better on its own, so the sooner treatment begins, the better.

Consider starting a conversation with her by mentioning that you are considering periodontal treatment for yourself. Explain that you wish to keep your natural teeth for your lifetime and have noticed some bleeding when brushing. Mention research about periodontal disease and how it begins silently at first, but can eat away at gum tissue and is the leading cause of adult tooth loss.

If she opens up about her own oral health, you can then encourage her to see a periodontal specialist. Her first visit can be a consultation to ask questions and learn what to expect. This way, she can get to know the Periodontist without having to get in a treatment chair.

You may also want to download information from the web site of the American Academy of Periodontology at or call our office to request information at (828) 274-9440.

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