The Other One About the Bad Breath

Dear Dance Diva,
This is awkward so I’ll get straight to the point. My pro-am partner has bad breath. It’s really bad. I’ve been working with him for about six months and he’s a good instructor, but I’m thinking about finding another pro because I don’t know how to handle this without embarrassing him (and me). At first I thought I could just grin and bear it. I tried mouth breathing, but I get so parched that I find myself holding my breath during my lessons. As I write this I know it sounds like I’m being overly dramatic, but honestly his breath reeks. It literally takes my breath away. I’ve tried offering him gum and mints at the start of our lessons, but he politely refuses every time.  Any suggestions?


Dear Breathless,
This certainly is an awkward situation, but you won’t be doing yourself or this gentleman any favors in avoiding it by finding another instructor. You need to address it head on.

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can result from poor mouth/dental hygiene as well as a heavy dose of pungent foods. Onion, garlic, cheese, pastrami, orange juice and alcohol are a few of the most common offenders, but bad breath also can be a symptom of an underlying health problem. Sinus or chronic lung infections, gum, liver or kidney disease, diabetes and gastro-intestinal disorders are a few of the health problems that can cause bad breath so it’s best not to ignore it.

Alert your instructor of the problem and leave it to him to figure out the cause and find a solution. It’s his problem after all, you’re just the messenger. Be sure to approach the matter out of concern for him rather than from a place of your own long-suffering. It’s still bound to be an awkward conversation, especially since your partnership is young, so why not try sending him an anonymous letter? Cowardly? Yes, but also undeniably effective. Following is an example of what you might say:

Dear Teacher,

There is no easy way to say this. You have bad breath. As a dance instructor, having bad breath can have an adverse impact on your business, but more importantly, it is often a symptom of an underlying health problem. These include sinus or respiratory infection, gum, liver or kidney disease, gastro-intestinal illnesses or diabetes to name a few. Please do not be embarrassed. Everyone has had bad breath at some point or another and I’m guessing, like most of us, you are unaware of it. I’m compelled to alert you of the situation out of sincere concern for your health and well-being.

—Concerned Student

Good luck to you, Breathless. Let me know how it goes.

Dance Diva


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