‘Dear Lala, the guy I’m dating has terrible breath – should I tell him?’

In Lalalaletmeexplain's hit column, readers ask for her expert advice on their own love, sex and relationship problems.

With over 200k Instagram followers, Lala is the anonymous voice helping womankind through every bump in the road. An established sex, dating and relationship educator, she’s had her fair share of relationship drama and shares her wisdom on social media to a loyal army of followers. Every week thousands turn to her to answer their questions (no matter how embarrassing), and her funny, frank approach to love and relationships has made her the ultimate feel-good guru.

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Dear Lala,

I’ve had two dates with a great guy – he’s lovely with good morals and values, however his breath smells. I can’t do more than peck him because of the smell. Initially I had hoped that he was just having a bad day but now after the second date I know it’s just him.

Surely, I can’t tell him? I'd feel so rude and awkward, and sort of shallow, if I told him! I don’t feel like he’s the man of my dreams so is the best bet to just cut it off to avoid hurting his feelings? It’s happened to me before and I ended it and didn’t tell the guy why. Is this a common problem? Why is oral hygiene seemingly not important to some people?!

Lala says…

Why is dating so cruel? You wait for ages for a lovely person to come along and then the universe sends you one who you can’t bear to kiss! I've been here and it's very hard to get over. Nobody should feel like they have to hold their nose before leaning in for a kiss. The worst thing is that it begins to affect more than just kissing, it becomes an awkward thing that you just can’t stop thinking about. It begins to make you question their general hygiene levels and it all gets very off-putting. But bad breath isn't always to do with poor hygiene.

I spoke to Dr Nicola Gore, who is the Author of ‘Dentistry in a Nutshell’, who said: “In some cases, below average oral hygiene can lead to bad breath odours. Bad oral hygiene, not brushing, flossing and having regular dental check-ups can lead to an accumulation of plaque and bacteria mixed with food particles and dead cells hence releasing toxins that contribute to bad odour.

“Other reasons for bad breath include any kind of infection such as dental abscesses or throat infection (tonsillitis), dehydration, poor diet, and digestive issues.

“It's important for people to seek regular hygienist and dental appointments and if they’re worried about bad breath they should also ask their GP to check their medical health, as diabetes can cause bad odour. In my opinion I'd recommend telling him! Rather than an embarrassment this may be a breakthrough for him.”

So, maybe his dental hygiene is great, but he’s dehydrated or diabetic! Bad breath isn't guaranteed to be a sign of self-neglect. He may have no idea that his breath smells at all. I think that if you really liked him and saw a future it would be crazy to cut it off without at least trying to get things to improve, but if you’re a bit ‘meh’ about the whole thing anyway, then it’s probably better to cut and run.

If you do feel ambivalent about him then I think you need to figure out whether it’s the bad breath has made it impossible for you to really let go and enjoy him or whether you’re just not a great match.

It'd be a bit crazy to decide that someone was the man of your dreams after two dates, it takes a while to figure that out. If it wasn’t so hard to kiss him, do you think this would be going differently? Do you think that his breath has made it hard for you to concentrate on the good things about him? If so, then it’s worth trying to say something if you can.

I know that it's easier said than done though. I can sit here writing about how you should just kindly broach the subject, but in reality, it’s tough. The thought of hurting someone's feelings is horrible.

Think about what you would want if it was the other way around. Would you want people to keep dumping you and allowing your breath to fester while you sit there questioning why nobody wants to kiss you? Or would you prefer to know so you can do something about it? For me it’s definitely the latter. This guide offers several good tips for broaching the subject. I'd try to follow some of those if you feel able to.

If you do decide to say something it's important that you say it kindly and sensitively. Don’t make fun of him or make him feel like you’re disgusted or repulsed. It'd be crap to lose a good person because of something that's potentially fixable, but it'd also be crap to force something with someone who’s breath has given you the ick.

As Dr Gore said, it’s likely that his breath can be addressed by dental or medical professionals and that he can take steps to change it, it’s not necessarily permanent. It’s really down to whether you can muster the courage to tell him and whether you even feel it’s worth all this stress. If you’re too turned off at this point it may just be better for you both if you walk away with an ‘We’re just not a match’ explanation. Good luck!

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