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Bad Breath: What to Do About It

Young people will understand some of the most common causes of bad breath and how to prevent it as well get rid of it when it happens


9-14 Years Old


30 Min

What You Need


Healthy Families Newsletter

English (pdf)

Spanish (pdf)

To find out how this health safety lesson fits Physical Education and Health Education standards click here.

Lesson Overview

This lesson will help young people understand some of the most common causes of bad breath, how to test if they have bad breath, and what they can do about it.  The main activity will be 10 quiz questions that can be delivered on the interactive whiteboard, on a printed activity sheet, or by orally quizzing the class. The lesson concludes with 4 Tips for Fresh Breath and a group discussion.


Ask the youth if they have experienced bad breath in the past.  How did they know their breath was bad? Can you think of some reasons your breath might not smell good?

Almost everyone has bad breath (also known as halitosis) once in a while. It can be embarrassing, but usually not a problem beyond that. Common causes are:

  • bacteria from food stuck to or caught in your teeth
  • a dry mouth
  • eating certain foods with strong odors or odor producing qualities
  • taking certain kinds of medicines
  • chewing or smoking tobacco
  • respiratory illness

In some cases, a more serious health-related issue could be causing bad breath. It’s important to talk to a doctor or dentist if it becomes a chronic (long-lasting) problem.

Share with the youth that everyone has bad breath sometimes, but there are some things they can do to help prevent it and improve their breath throughout the day.

Activity: Learn how to test your breath

Ask the young people, “How do you know if you have bad breath?” Some may answer that you can breathe into your hand and then smell the air.

You can respond that a popular method of testing for bad breath doesn’t actually work very well. A lot of people think that if you cup your hand over your month and nose and breathe into it you can tell if your breath smells bad. But air is released differently when you do that versus when you are face-to-face with someone, interacting with and talking to them.

A better way to test is to wash your hand, and then lick the back of it with the farthest back part of your tongue you can manage. Then let it dry for 10 seconds and smell it. If you discover that it does smell bad there are a number of things you can do to improve it.

Activity: Interactive quiz

The quiz questions are on the  Bad Breath Quiz Activity Sheet.

Ask each of the 10 questions and wait for young people to answer. You can use the interactive whiteboard lesson files, if the software and a projector is available (see What You Need). Once the answers are in, give them the correct answer and have a discussion. This can also be done orally with hand raising for answers or writing them on a board.


Conclude the lesson with these 4 tips and a discussion question.

Tips for fresh breath

  1. Brush your teeth and your tongue…as far back as you can. Removing bacteria is one of the best ways to freshen up. A lot of them can live on your tongue, something you don’t always think about when brushing.
  2. Floss your teeth. This also removes food particles and bacteria.
  3. If you can’t brush or floss right away, use mouthwash or chew gum until you are able to clean your mouth.
  4. Drink plenty of water. Water helps rinse away bacteria. Staying hydrated also helps your digestive system run smoothly which can also prevent bad breath.


Share the following statement with the youth and ask if they agree or disagree: if someone you care about has bad breath you should politely say something about it. (There is no right answer to this, but there will likely be a lot of ideas and opinions.)

Continuing the Conversation 

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which includes tips for fresh breath, so that families can continue the discussion at home.

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