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Best Practices for the Offering and Consumption of Breath Mints.

23 March 2013


In this article, we lay out a set of best practices for the use and distribution of consumable breath-freshening aids (CBFAs). We adopt the vernacular “breath mint” interchangeably despite stipulating that many such CBFAs may not be mint-flavored, and we do not distinguish between peppermint and spearmint (despite the less-frequent latter’s clear superiority). We address both the receipt of offered breath mints and the offering of one’s own breath mints to others. It is our hope that by promulgating the following set of best practices we may simultaneously improve the overall odoriferous quality of society’s aggregate exhalations, and mitigate any social awkwardness associated with receiving an offer of a breath mint.


In today’s society, we are all expected to have fresh – or, failing that, unnoticeable – breath. It’s simple courtesy, and it’s highly associated with good dental hygiene, which is a social proxy for hygiene in general. There are many historical and traditional means of freshening the breath, ranging from caraway in ancient Egypt[1] to fennel in India[2]. It is universally acknowledged that fresh breath is a desirable quality in a potential mate. However, it is also inevitable that the freshness of one’s breath deteriorates (leading to halitosis) over time unless countermeasures are deployed. The standard weapon in the battle against halitosis is the toothbrush, but chewing gum, rinsing with mouthwash or water, and even eating are common substitutes[3]. In this article, we concern ourselves with the consumable breath-freshening aid (CBFA) or “breath mint”, and attempt to lay out best practices for both the distribution and receipt of same.


Breath Mint: n. A mint is a candy characterized by the presence of mint flavoring or real mint oil, whether it be peppermint oil, spearmint oil, or another natural or artificial source; the sweets are often referred to as “peppermints”.[4]


Figure 1. Peppermint CBFA. Source


It can be a socially delicate interaction to offer a breath mint to a person in dire need of fresher breath. The mint bearer (MB) wants, in general, to improve the potential mint receiver’s (MR) breath while avoiding the possible social shaming of the MR. It is therefore desirable to construct a scenario wherein the CBFA may be proffered without the MR becoming aware that the MB has discerned a condition of malodorous exhalation.

Best Practices for the Distribution of CBFAs:

1. Prior to offering a CBFA, the MB should always, without comment, take one themselves first.

2. The MB should then feign a motion to return the breath mints to their pocket, drawer, or other bag.

3. When the package of CBFAs is nearly returned to its original location, the MB should ‘suddenly remember’ to politely offer a breath mint to the MR. For example: “I’m sorry, would you like one too?” Or, if in a group of people: “Silly me! Who else would like one?”

4. Open the container, or peel back the wrapping, without touching the breath mint and extend the CBFA towards the MR.

5. If the MR does not accept the CBFA, suck it up. You’re just going to have to deal.

Best Practices for the Receipt of CBFAs:

1. Always, under all circumstances, accept a proffered breath mint. This is non-negotiable.

2. Gum too.

3. The MR should not make a stupid comment like: “Oh, do I need one?” This risks derailing the polite attempt to spare the MR’s feelings with a flat “Yes.”


The previous set of best practices are designed to reduce overall halitosis and associated unpleasantness while ensuring that social standings and general comfort are respected. Nothing in this article should be construed to dissuade any person from adhering to and practicing good oral hygiene, as CBFAs are not a substitute for appropriate dental and oral care. They counteract halitosis only transiently. Halitosis may be a serious medical condition. Chronic sufferers should seek medical care.


[1] Aboelsoud NH, “Herbal medicine in ancient Egypt” Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 4(2), pp. 082-086, 18 January, 2010

[2] Türkyılmaz Z, Karabulut R, Sönmez K, Başaklar AC “A striking and frequent cause of premature thelarche in children: Foeniculum vulgare” Journal of Pediatric Surgery Volume 43, Issue 11 , Pages 2109-2111, November 2008

[3] Nachnani S,  Clark GT, “Halitosis: A Breath of Fresh Air.” Clinical Infectious Diseases 1997;25(Suppl 2):S218–9

[4] Wikipedia page: Mint (candy). Accessed 23 March, 2013

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Mona permalink
    23 March 2013 12:49

    Best. Article. Ever.

  2. Jimmy Legs permalink
    23 March 2013 13:23

    The section on best practices for receipt of CBFAs, section 2, should be amended to include a proviso that those disinclined to masticate nonreductive material may restrict their acceptance of nonreductive CBFAs to situations in which there is both an interest in and reasonable expectation of imminent oral-oral contact.

  3. 23 March 2013 17:50

    I noticed that your definition was restricted to those CBFA’s containing mint flavoring, despite your previous statement that the vernacular use included other substances. Now I am confused as to what to do if offered a cinnamon Altoid (actually, no; those things give me canker sores – I plead infirmity).

  4. 23 March 2013 21:29

    From my perspective as a as a trained sensory scientist those who are anosmic cannot pick up smells and usually those who have breath problems will have partners who are anosmic…an evolutionary mechanism and most of what we call and body odours are what they are and we need to accept and not treat as a problem to be solved by mints manufactured by food corporations, greedy fat cats only after profits to be made on the backs of comsumer health in the long term…”mukwash” is very popular for my culture…that is in India and all those living in the diaspora…native Indians always chewed plant roots to clean teeth and mouth…Your posts deepens me and om shanti!

  5. 25 March 2013 14:27

    I require a citation on the superiority of spearmint, so that I may simply refer to it in future mint debates.

    • 25 March 2013 14:34

      I’m not certain that self-evident facts require citation? Who do you cite when asserting the world is round?

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