11 February 2019

Bad breath is the biggest turn-off when it comes to finding potential partners, according to new research.

A survey into attraction reveals bad breath would be a put-off for 85% of British adults looking for a new partner. Single Brits have deemed it a bigger faux-pas than bad jokes, terrible dress sense, lateness and even poor manners.1

The findings also show that 80% would not go on a second date with someone if they had bad breath on the first.1

Bad breath, or halitosis as it’s known medically, can be caused by a number of factors. It is extremely common, with some studies claiming that it affects half the adult population.2

In the short term, eating strong-smelling or spicy foods such as garlic or tuna will taint our breath, while drinks such as coffee and red wine will also add to the problem

The main cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. Not brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, or cleaning in between your teeth regularly with an interdental brush, can lead to bad breath. Especially not doing the latter will allow bits of food to build up in between your teeth which in turn will encourage bacteria and plaque to form, leading to smelly breath.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says that while bad breath is a common problem it is easily preventable with a good dental health routine.

Dr Carter says: “When it comes to bad breath the first thing we recommend is adopting a good oral health routine. The tongue can harbour a lot of bacteria, some of which encourage bad breath, so brushing your tongue can be something you can incorporate into your dental routine. Ultimately, the best place to go to both understand why you might be experiencing bad breath, and how to prevent it, is your dentist.

“It is important that we take bad breath seriously. Bad breath can be as sign of wider problems, including gum disease which if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss.

“Some people try masking bad breath by simply popping a mint in their mouth but this will not solve the problem. Chewing sugar free gum on the other hand can help as it increases saliva flow. Saliva helps to clean out your mouth and get rid of bad-breath bacteria.

However, if bad breath lingers, be sure to seek professional advice.”

Testing if our breath smells can be done quickly and easily.

Lick your wrist and let it go dry. If the part of your wrist you licked smells bad, then it is likely our breath does too.

For all those looking for love this Valentine’s Day, make sure to keep a healthy mouth. Don’t let bad breath get in the way of securing a dream date.

For more information check out our page on 'Bad breath'.


1. Oral Health Foundation (2019) ‘National Smile Month Survey’, Atomik Research.

2. American Dental Association, Council on Scientific Affairs: Association report: Oral Malodor, J Am Dent Association 134:209-214, (2003)