If the eyes are a window to the soul, the mouth is the gaping doorway to the brain. And when that doorway is festooned with spinach-y remnants of brunch and emitting a rancid exhaust of partially digested pizza, no one wants to kiss you, hire you, or even be your friend. If you find that your breath is kicking harder than Wayne Rooney on steer hormones, there's no need to put yourself on face probation; MacGyver your way out!
I've read that by the time you realize that you're thirsty, you're already quite dehydrated. The same principle applies to realizing that your breath probably smells like regurgitated ass: By the time you notice, other people probably have already mentally christened you the Clark Gable of our time. Temporary halitosis is the fake disease that affects even the least expecting stock-photo models featured in Listerine ads, but thankfully, it's easy to stop in its tracks.
First, drink a bunch of water. Bad breath occurs when your mouth is on the dry side and the bacteria in there decide to hold a rave. If you can't drink water, think about a juicy steak or a red Starburst and try to salivate. The bacteria responsible for polluting your mouthspace often live on the surface of your tongue, so if you can, excuse yourself and use a spoon (plastic or metal!) and scrape the surface. Try gargling with baking soda, if you can get hold of some (although if you're in a place teeming with baking soda, you're probably in a place that has some mouthwash or toothpaste), or, in a pinch, try some salt. In a restaurant setting, order a dish that contains mint, apples, strawberries, or yogurt. These foods are made of microscopic ninjas that can punch right through germs and make a tiny, righteous war on your gums. If your bad breath can be blamed on smoking, try a little hunk of chocolate, an orange, and follow that by washing your mouth out with about two tablespoons of shame about your poor health decision.
Of course, you could do the boring thing that doesn't make you look crazy and chew gum, but a lot of people (especially old people) think that gum chomping is low class and douchey (my grandma thinks that women who chew gum look like hussies, which is so hilarious that sometimes I chew gum around her just so she calls me a "hussy." Is there anything more funny than outdated words of shame?). In addition to the geriatric judgment to which you'll subject yourself, cows sometimes get offended by gum chewing because they think you're mocking them. Chew gum at your own risk.
If you're on a date and eating something really garlicky or red onion infused, encourage your date to have several bites of your entre. There. If both of you have butt breath, it's sort of like neither of you do. And finally, if there's no salt, baking soda, water, lip balm, tongue scraping opportunities, apples, mint, or gum, and your date doesn't take your shared-misery bait, consider approaching a military recruiter and asking about how your noxious exhaust can help support the war effort. Consider weaponizing!
Bad breath can be disguised easily, but let's talk about that bit of flotsam stuck in your teeth. The only way to get rid of it to get in there and dig it out. If it can't be budged with the normal method (rub your tooth while one of your friends scrutinizes your mouth; feel awkward/uncomfortable as your friend tries to direct your fingernail scraping, like you're parallel parking a car into too small a space), there's no need to despair. You can do all sorts of things that would make a dentist faint to fix the problem. Are you around any knives? Knives have been the most important tool in buccaneer mouth hygiene for hundreds of years, and they can help you, too. I have dislodged stubborn foodstuffs using an unfurled paper clip, a thumb tack, the edge of a post-it note, a business card, a safety pin, an earring (and here's where I pause to say that it's important to sanitize shit you're going to put into your mouth; you can do this by holding it in the flame of a lighter for a few seconds) and an unused staple. Get creative! If it's capable of giving you a puncture wound, it's probably also capable of removing a piece of food from between your teeth.
Let's say none of these tricks work and you can't fix your grill. You can always do that weird stretching perpetually pursed-lip thing that people with too-large porcelain veneers do in order to hide the fact that their expensive fake teeth makes them look like horses from early Walt Disney cartoons.
The mouth peril doesn't stop with putrid breath and sea-junk in your teeth; wine, in addition to staining your clothes, can cause mouth mayhem as well. One thing that I've learned from years of corporate schmoozing is that if you ever go to a wine tasting event (which is usually a "wine drinking event"), you shouldn't spend too much time drinking red wines and then smiling at people lest you look like a crazed Kool Aid-guzzling ape. Avoid red wine if you're around people you need to impress, unless those people run a winery that specializes in cabernet.
If it's too late and your mouth is already indigo, try eating something crunchy, like an apple, or grab a lemon wedge from the bar, retire to the rest room, and rub it on your teeth. Take a breather from imbibing and drink water. Or just stand there basking in that haze you feel after drinking a little too much red wine, and don't talk.
Now, Lieutenant Mustache Melter, what have we learned today? First, bad breath is like a forest fire in that only you can prevent, and water will solve many of your problems. Don't eat spinach or garlic if you're on a date with someone with whom you're not yet on a peeing-with-the-bathroom-door-open level yet. Carry mints and floss with you. Avoid red wine if you're not in low light. And for the love of Crest, brush your teeth.
Image by KhrobostovA/Shutterstock.com.