My Fiancé Refuses to Brush His Teeth


I mean... really though

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

woman sitting alone on the couch

Q: My fiancé does not brush his teeth in the morning. It took me a long time to realize it when we first started dating because we were long distance, but I slowly wised up when he finally moved to my city and into my apartment. It didn’t take an undercover operation to figure it out—it became pretty clear to me when his (really, really remarkably bad) morning breath never seemed to go away. Then I started paying closer attention and I realized I never heard him go into the bathroom and brush his teeth in the morning. I wouldn’t be so obsessed with this if his breath weren’t so remarkably foul. It repulses me when he tries to kiss me and I have to hold my breath. If we hop in the car to run an errand, I can smell it when the windows are up and have to ask him to put his window down.

(The weird thing is that he’s super vigilant about nighttime brushing. Like, I assume, every other good, honest, hardworking American, I every once in a while will crawl into bed before brushing my teeth and read a bit, and then get just too tired and cozy to get out again and end up falling asleep that way. It’s gross and bad, but no one except me has to face the consequences of that decision. But my fiancé will prod me awake and make me go brush my teeth before nodding off if he thinks I haven’t yet.)

It was really hard for me and embarrassing for both of us when I very kindly brought it up the first time. I said I thought it would be a good thing for his health, our relationship, and his professional life (I sincerely worry if it has an impact on his relationships at work) if he made sure to brush his teeth every morning. Had I been on the other side of that somewhat mortifying conversation, I’d like to think it would’ve whipped me into shape. But any efforts the conversation did inspire were short-lived, and now, three months before our wedding, I’m finding myself steaming and fuming every morning he goes another day without brushing his teeth.

I’ve lost my temper about it twice—once in the car when I made him take some gum, and once at the airport when I said I wouldn’t kiss him for the duration of our trip. Each time this happens, and also during the many other moments I’ve spent feeling frustrated and defeated about this, I feel like a mean mom. And I don’t feel like this should be my job.

I love this man so much, but I feel utterly hopeless on this issue. If asking nicely doesn’t work, what else can I do? I’ve tried pushing for him to go to the dentist (and considered calling the dentist ahead of time to ask him to use some scare tactics—very, very crazy, I know, but this is where I am with this right now). I’ve considered telling his mom (crazier?). I’ve considered withholding sex or kissing (which is actually sort of already happening involuntarily, when I’m so turned off I can’t bother). I want a calm, respectful, and kind way of getting what I need here, but I’m out of ideas. Any thoughts?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

You mention that you already brought it up with him, which is great! But you also describe that conversation as being sort of embarrassing and uncomfortable. To which I wanna say: Brace yourself. Marriage gets very bodily, and I’m not talking about the fun, sexy stuff. Childbirth, aging, death… daily human life is a physical (sometimes gross) thing in these here meatsuits we’re given. That’s what “in sickness and in health” is all about; not just, “I won’t leave you if you have cancer,” but also, “I’ll change your diapers when you become incontinent (or at least hire a really nice professional and hold your hand).” So this teeth stuff, while admittedly gross, is just the beginning. Hopefully you can get to a point where you can say, “Yo, bud, your breath stinks,” without it being a big deal.

A little of that, plus a little of the equal and opposite, worries me. It sounds like he just sort of doesn’t care if you think he’s gross. You’re not making demands of his physical appearance, you’re not asking him to change who he is. You’re asking him to keep up a baseline level of cleanliness. His laziness (or whatever the hell it is) is outweighing how much he cares about what you think and say.

In short, it’s too embarrassing to talk about, but not embarrassing enough to fix? We can let it all hang out in marriage, but there are limits. You still have to be courteous and respectful of the other person’s comfort. Breathing hot rotting garlic breath on them is not that.

You’re probably like, “Right, Liz, I get it. But what do I do about it?” And the answer is, well, not much. It’s his body. He’s in charge of it. You can’t manually hold his mouth open and shove a brush in there (that’s hard enough with a three-year-old, let alone your adult partner). You want to be kind and respectful, and you were! And he sort of listened at first, but then mostly ignored you. So you don’t have too many options left. Something folks don’t often talk about is that marriages often have a few arguments that just never go away. Nobody likes to be a nag. But sometimes partners need to be reminded over and over. So you told him once, and the changes didn’t stick. Now there is no option but to bring it up again and again. And let’s be frank. This is some basic, tedious emotional labor that he’s foisting on you. You have to worry about his daily hygiene? Because, what, it’s not worth his five minutes in the morning? Because making you remember one more thing doesn’t matter? Because your needs don’t matter? I for sure don’t know, so you guys need to figure it out; otherwise you’ll still be dealing with this (plus more, presumably) when you’re seventy. If he still has teeth by then.

You listed some pretty good reasons for toothbrushing when you last talked to him (… as if anyone needed a rationale?), but maybe—assuming you have the patience—you can have a chat about another. Namely, it’s not just your minty-scented preferences: This is a serious matter of health. I don’t know what it is about dudes with their bodies, but I know way too many folks in relationships with men who won’t take care of their health, whether because of toxic masculinity (literally toxic), or laziness, or who even knows what. And oddly, your specific issue is widespread. (Who knew? Who wanted to know? MANkind, what’s wrong with you?)

Let him know there are serious reasons for concern. By marrying one another, we’re sort of charged with taking care of one another. So it’s really unfair to make that job harder for each other. How can you help take care of him if he’s letting the basics go? He’s making your life more difficult, more uncomfortable, more stressful, and more risky when he doesn’t take care of the simple things that keep his body running and healthy and (fine) smelling good. And he’s not taking care of you if he’s letting something slip that has natural consequences on your sex life and how much you want to be around him, talking to him, kissing him, breathing his air.

That’s what I would talk to him about. Yeah, you may need to have that conversation more than once. But hopefully, he’ll see that it’s just an extra five minutes in his morning to take care of his long-term health, to make you more comfortable, and to lay a foundation for more sex and more conversation. What’s the holdup, dude?

Oh, and tell him to never mention your toothbrushing habits to you again, because no. He has not earned that.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTIONPLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Eenie

    “meatsuits” – HA!

    If someone is going to religiously brush their teeth once a day, it needs to be in the morning. Not for health reasons, but for everyone else who has to smell their breath reasons.

  • Violet

    Wait, is he forgetting to, or does he not think he should have to (but will when directly asked)?

  • idkmybffjill

    Honestly – if he wakes you up to brush your teeth – I think you have every right on earth to tell him to brush his teeth as soon as he wakes up.

  • Sara

    If he’s willing to wake you up to remind you to brush your teeth at night, I see no reason why you can’t remind him before he leaves in the morning. Just yelling from bed even.

    • Jessica

      That’s what I thought was strange in this behavior set.

    • Jess

      Unless he’s just sick of hearing about teethbrushing and is doing it back at you to be annoying (which is a whole other thing), fair is fair.

    • Kalë

      Right? So weird. I think he loses all rights to ever tell ANYONE to brush their teeth. I mean, ew.

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  • Kelly

    Not assuming kids are in their future, but if they are, I can’t imagine how hard it’ll be to get a toddler to brush their teeth if dad isn’t doing it.

    • Eh

      I am currently dealing with my husband, who previously had questionable oral hygiene, not brushing our toddler’s teeth because she fights him about it and he doesn’t want to spend their time together fighting. He gets her up in the morning and most nights I put her to bed (he works afternoons and I work early in the morning). I have repeatedly reminded him that he’s the parent and that not brushing will lead to worse consequences down the road.

      • Jessica

        Know what my parents hated paying for? Cavity fillings in my baby teeth. Those suckers just came out about a year after they were filled in.

        • Eh

          We have awesome insurance but really who wants their kid to be in pain or need dental work.

          • Lisa

            I had a friend as a kid whose dentist just pulled some of the baby teeth instead of putting fillings in. That sounds a lot more painful than teeth brushing to me!

          • Eh

            Exactly!

      • Amy March

        Yup, One of my co-workers just had to put his 4 year old under general anesthesia for 7 cavities.

        • Eh

          I have friends who have had to do that too! Insane!

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        I feel your pain! I basically had to cuss my husband out over this. But that’s how WE roll sometimes bc sometimes he acts like a fucking idiot. I do not recommend my course of action btw.

        • Eh

          We went back to using a finger toothbrush because it was less of a fight with her. He still “forgets” sometimes.

      • Lisa

        This is something I worry about with my husband. He’s a vigilant daytime brusher, but he honestly believes that nighttime brushing is unnecessary. He hasn’t had any new cavities since he switched to an electric toothbrush, and the cavities were my main arguing point when we were dating. (He needed to brush twice a day to improve his oral hygiene/not get cavities.) I’m concerned that someday when/if we have kids they will notice that their father doesn’t brush teeth at night, and I’m going to be mean mom.

        • Eenie

          Just make sure he wets his toothbrush at night ;)

        • Eh

          Family nighttime teeth brushing for everyone! lol

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Awww. That might not be the case. It might be something you can do together and wont be a chore. I started doing that with my daughter and she doesn’t fight me on it so much. Plus, there are like a billion other things that can give you mean mom status.

          • Lisa

            We shall see! I already have a feeling that I’m going to be the hard ass, and he’ll be the pushover. ;)

          • Eh

            That’s how things are at my house too!

      • Liz

        There was a recent article about loads of cavities because parents said “but my kid doesn’t like brushing.” !!! Not okay!

        You didn’t ask, but my kids would fight me on brushing, but really liked brushing for themselves. They didn’t do a good job, but were more agreeable to me “finishing up” (doing all the brushing really fast) once they were done.

        • Eh

          That’s what I am thinking of doing when she’s a bit older. She’s just over 1. She does like holding the toothbrush and chewing on it but that’s it. We switched from a toothbrush back to a finger brush and she is much more willing to let us brush her teeth that way.

  • LJ

    ewwww that is so unfortunate.

    My partner and I have a “deal” where he can grow his beard however he likes, but if I have to dig to find his mouth then he doesn’t get kisses. It’s a fair “let’s maintain some basic levels of etiquette to be respectful to each other” exchange that doesn’t cramp his style more than is necessary and still gives him creative freedom. Maybe there’s a solution for you somewhere along this line.

    • louise danger

      that note is adorable

      • LJ

        Right?! I still have a photo of it on my phone that I took at their wake, which was held at their home. It’s a cute memory.

    • laddibugg

      I love that there was a response to the note.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I am kind of at a loss because he must know how gross and disgusting this is (you have to tell him to roll down the window bc his bad breath is smelling up the car, etc). So why doesn’t he do something about this? Like, have you asked him “Hey, why don’t you brush your teeth in the morning because your morning breath is really gross as I’ve stated before?” And what was his answer?

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    Oh and to answer the question, at the end of the day, all you can do is let him know how gross it is and you don’t want to kiss him with his bad breath or be close to him. And hope he decides at some point to make a change. Withholding sex and affection sounds like punishment and isn’t something you want to do. I think you can just continue to let him know it’s disgusting. I don’t know how ya’ll made it this far honestly.

  • Amy March

    I feel like you are skipping several natural steps. I have no idea why this is hard for him or why it never became a habit, but apparently it isn’t. So, why not instead of going with steaming frustration, try matter of fact comments? When he goes to kiss you goodbye “not until after you brush your teeth!” or “ouuf your breath stinks, please brush your teeth before we get in the car,” or “hey, did you brush your teeth today? i’ll wait to leave until you do.” I think sometimes we get scared to hurt someone’s feelings, so instead of just being honest in the moment we try and phrase it perfectly at just the right time, which winds up making a bigger deal of it and being less effective.

    I don’t think its a sign he doesn’t care about you or your relationship at all, just that new habits are hard. Most of us agree that obviously you always brush your teeth, which I think makes it hard to understand, but what if you thought of it as flossing? Surely I am not the only person who fully understands how important flossing is, yet fails entirely at making it an every day thing. And is this part of a bigger picture of him just not doing things? Sometimes that can be a sign of depression- not at all diagnosing him but worth considering.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Yes. One thing I find so odd about this is doesn’t he smell himself?? I’m so at a loss with this.

      • Nell

        Nose blindness! You get blind to your own smells. The same reason you probably can’t describe what your own house smells like.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I ALWAYS smell when my breath is bad. I could see this if he NEVER brushed his teeth but he does every night.

          • Sara

            I can smell mine as well! It’s something I have tried to be hyper-aware of in my adult life.

        • laddibugg

          lick your hand and sniff. gives you a good idea if your breath is off

          • LJ

            life hack for sure!

    • idkmybffjill

      Yes! I think sometimes it hurts people’s feelings MORE when it’s a sit down conversation about teeth brushing, and not just Hey! Yuck! Brush your teeth!.

    • LJ

      You make a good point, and this is totally an aside, but this came out last month and I am skeptical yet thrilled because unless I can feel a corn kernel or poppy seed between my teeth I sure as heck don’t floss. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/f7e66079d9ba4b4985d7af350619a9e3/medical-benefits-dental-floss-unproven

    • Lisa

      Yes, this feels like such a “woman” problem. She’s asking, “How do I manage his delicate feelings and make sure I don’t crush them?” Whereas he clearly has no problem telling her, “You didn’t brush your teeth. Do it now, or I will pester you until you do.” He’s demonstrated to the LW his preferred method of communication around this, and she should follow his lead.

      • Aubry

        I agree Lisa. One thing I have noticed for many men (forewarning: huge generalization ahead) is that men are just less delicate in their conversations around bodily stuff. At least, he has made it clear in his conversations with her that a little upfront prodding is fine. So try to stop over thinking it and just say “hey, I noticed you sometimes forget to brush your teeth in the morning, so I’m gonna go ahead and remind you when I notice!” and then proceed to do so in a light way. I often get so hung up about delivering something the perfect way, or not nagging/sounding like my mother that it really gets in the way of my comminucation with C.

    • AnonToday

      Yes, this. I will also add: we live in a society that tends to moralize cleanliness. Humans are weird and we all have gross bad habits. His happens to be a little more obvious and embarrassing than some, but that doesn’t make him a bad person.

      It may help to set aside some of the assumptions that seem to be fueling anger/resentment in this situation (e.g., he doesn’t brush because he doesn’t care about me) and realize that this is likely a matter of bad habits…which many of us have if we’re being honest. And bad habits tend to be hard to change, and require some repeated effort.

      So that said, I’d just approach it factually. Inform him (nicely if you can) when his breath stinks that he may want to go brush his teeth. Not with emotion, or as part of a conversation, just “hey dude your breath is a little rank, why don’t you go take care of that?” Or just ask “hey, have you brushed today? you might want to go freshen up” and he’ll probably get the hint. Try it repeatedly, and see where that gets you.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      So after 3 decades of my dentist scolding me twice a year about flossing, I’ve resorted to a calendar and a sheet of stickers. Last month I flossed 25 days, but so far this month I’ve managed 8 of 14. It is very, very hard to form new habits, and this is coming from someone who *wants* to change.

      • Ashlah

        I didn’t pick up the flossing habit until I did Invisalign and was forced to floss (and brush) every. single. time. I ate. anything. I saw the difference it made in my dental health, and I’ve continued to floss each night before I brush. And (surprise!) I have way fewer cavities now (like, 2 in the last 3 years instead of a few at every six-month appointment), and my gums hardly bleed at all at my cleanings, whereas before I was assigned to the hygienist who specializes in periodontal disease. As a bonus, going to the dentist is way less shitty when you get praise instead of criticism!

        All that to say: I totally get how hard it is to start the flossing habit, but I’m so glad I did. Good luck to you! I hope it sticks and makes a difference!

        • nocutenickname

          Invisalign made a flosser out of me too! I finished the braces part like 4 year ago and still floss at least every other day (can’t claim to be 100%), partially because I still wear the retainers. One tip that really worked for me is to get woven floss. I get one that’s sold under the Listerine brand. It’s thicker but softer and I find it works for me better than the slicey flat floss.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Thanks! I asked my dentist, “Can you tell??” And he asked, “Can you??” And, yeah, I can! My gums don’t hurt, and they don’t bleed.

      • I got some black floss in a cute container to motivate me. And these comments are motivating me too. I’m going to have to stop reading to go floss and brush before I can finish reading the comments!

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Nice! I’ve resorted to those stupid plastic harps. I feel like a jerk to the environment, but I actually use them. And sometimes the dollar store has ones that look like animals.

      • Violet

        Exactly. This is why I was curious if he agrees it’s a thing he should do and is just struggling with the implementation of it (who doesn’t struggle to change their behavior!?) or if he doesn’t think he needs to at all. Very different responses.

      • LJ

        stickers are underrated as motivators for people over the age of 6.

      • Chloe

        I have always been terrible at flossing but recently decided I really wanted to make an effort to make it a habit. I came up with the idea that I was going to pick up the floss when I took my toothbrush out of the bathroom cabinet and hold it in my other hand while I was brushing. This makes it very difficult to just forget to do it and seems to be working so far as I am flossing nearly every time (twice a day). If I’m really in a big rush I have skipped it a couple of times but I’m making a deliberate decision not to rather than just forgetting. Fingers crossed the picking up the floss is a habit that will have stuck soon!

      • the cupboard under the stairs

        Similar to stickers, I’ve found that keeping a Habits page in my bullet journal (I know, I’m so basic rn) has been more effective than anything else at prodding me to do things I want to do but that I often let fall by the wayside, like learning another language, reading and exercising. I wonder if LW’s fiance might benefit from tracking morning brushing as a habit, whether it be with stickers or fun colored markers or just a plain old pencil.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Yeah, you just gotta find a system that works. Self-rewarding is awesome.

    • saywhatnow

      But the thing is – and I’m not sure anyone has mentioned it so far – that there’s only so much OP can say or do. Ultimately, the actions you recommend cast OP in the “mean mother” role she dislikes – and that role isn’t sustainable. Nagging is negative (ask me how I know) and kind of manipulative (e.g., “When he goes to kiss you goodbye “not until after you brush your teeth!”)

      To be clear: I agree OP should be frank and honest about how much it bothers her. She can ask straightforwardly what stands in the way of her fiancé and good oral hygiene. They can discuss it – all of that. But in the end, only *he* can decide to change.

      Which comes down to this: OP, imagine your OP’s halitosis never goes away / his habits never change. Is this something you can live with? Because you are getting married soon. I’m not saying “his breath stinks, dump him” – but the issue affects your relationship and you, as an individual, deeply already, and you have to consider if that’s something you want to contend with long-term.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Bottom line: you can’t force other people to change. You can only control your own response.

    • Jessy

      I disagree I feel like this is a sign he doesn’t care about himself or you. Why should you have to tell a MAN to brush his teeth are you kidding me. As I said my man has done this a couple times in his day where he think oh we’re just home inside all day in sweats watching movies I just won’t brush my teeth… and I let him know right away how nasty that is any time it’s ever happened. Doesn’t really happen now. There’s nothing to be delicate about – I know we can all taste that our mouths aren’t clean there’s no way I’m the only one!

  • Spot

    It’s time for some overdue tough love, LW. Being the kindly, understanding girlfriend gently encouraging him to participate in basic hygiene didn’t work. You’re actually considering tattling on him to his mom–time to take off the kid gloves. He is consciously choosing to not be respectful or kind to you with this crap, so it’s time to stop treating him like some frail baby bunny who will burst into flames at the first whiff of criticism. He’s a man (with an clearly healthy ego who) either 1. doesn’t care about your concerns 2. doesn’t take you/your concerns seriously yet or 3. is engaged in some bizarre power play with you over this.

    As my mom says re: teeth, “Your first set is free, you gotta pay for the rest.” And as George Carlin says re: breath, “Anyone can have bad breath, [Fiance], but you could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon.”

    • janie

      I had a wake up call a few years ago where I just suddenly realized that I only had one set of teeth and when I ruined them it would be a problem. I don’t know if it’s because I started paying for my own insurance or what, but my dental hygienist said that most people have that moment of realization at some point. But she also had some guys come to the dentist and only get their teeth brushed twice a year at the dentist which is “better than no times.” I just really don’t know if you can compel people to have that wake up call; for me it was paying $700 for a crown that made me start flossing every day (and I really do!) but for some people there might not be any strong enough compulsion.

  • Jessica

    I just..don’t get the whole not brushing your teeth thing. My husband regularly goes to bed without brushing his teeth, and it just confuses the hell out of me. How can you sleep with all that flavor in your mouth?

    My single straight lady friends have told horror stories about online dating, and the things men will put on their profiles. They will admit that they only brush their teeth every once in a while. They do not use spellcheck. They talk about things that are really gross, but apparently have no idea those things are really gross. While I cannot condone all of the guys that put this stuff on their profile, I do have to remind said single ladies that if spelling and gold medal teeth brushing were a list of my requirement, I would not be married.

    But seriously, just brush your teeth twice a day–dentists say you should!

    • Eh

      Some people have good teeth genes and some people have bad teeth genes. When my parents stop monitoring my tooth brushing I did not do it twice a day and I never had a cavity (my gums probably suffered a bit). My dentist always commented on how great my teeth were (and then berated me when I said I didn’t brush twice a day or floss). But my husband and other people I know have bad teeth genes. If they don’t brush their teeth twice a day they get cavities. They could have better oral hygiene practices than me and still have worse teeth mostly because of their genes (and maybe all the pop my husband drank). Since my husband has improved his oral hygiene he has not had a cavity.

      • anony

        Agreed. I’m not sure what the difference is (in my case, maybe it’s due to my not liking sweets and soft drinks that much) but some people like myself can get away with only one brushing a day with no problems. The last time I visited the dentist he commented on how healthy my teeth looked.

        • Eh

          I don’t drink pop but I love chocolate. The last time I was at the dentist he commented on how I barely had any plaque, even between my teeth. He suspected I didn’t floss because my gums bleed easily but he was impressed with my brushing skills. On the other hand I think my husband has soft teeth that are more susceptible which is probably made worse by his love of pop.

  • anon for this

    Okay, before we all pile onto the “not brushing your teeth in the morning is inherently gross” bandwagon, I just want to point out that brushing twice a day is not strictly necessary. I mean, if the dude’s breath smells in the morning then yes, he should do a morning brush. But I basically never brush my teeth in the morning, and my dentist says my teeth are “impeccable” and no one has ever said a word about my breath. http://tuftsjournal.tufts.edu/archives/1329/once-is-enough

    This doesn’t really have anything to do with the letter writer’s question (if my husband, or anyone for that matter, thought that my failure to brush was a problem I would be mortified and would definitely add a second brushing to my routine). I just want to reassure any other readers out there who may be thinking “wait, I only brush in the evening – does everyone secretly think I’m gross?!” that they are probably just fine.

    • Amy March

      But why not? Aren’t you concerned that everyone is actually thinking you have bad breath but is too polite to tell you?

      • anon for this

        Not really … I have some very blunt friends. Also, I can usually tell when I need to do an extra brushing or when my breath is unpleasant (usually after I eat something sugary, which I generally don’t in the morning).

        My reasons for not brushing in the morning are pretty simple. First, it just feels unnecessary because my mouth and teeth still feel clean from the night before. Second, I’m a coffee drinker, and I usually nurse my cup of coffee all morning long. Nothing ruins a good cup of coffee like the lingering taste of toothpaste, blech.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Not to mention, the coffee would cancel out anything you did prior anyway.

          • Jessica

            But it doesn’t, because it’s also about gum health and getting rid of plaque build up.

            As far as whitening your teeth, yeah, it’s closer to canceling things out.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            I mean as far as the bad breath. I’m not a dentist so I’m not commenting on one’s dental hygeine and what’s required/necessary.

          • Jessica

            *thumbs up emoji*

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            This person’s dentist said their teeth were fine.

    • Eenie

      Even if this was the case, the solution would be for him to brush his teeth in the morning then! Not gonna lie, I have a horrible track record of brushing before bed. But I have a backup tooth brush in my car in the event that I forget in the morning. I would never leave the house without brushing.

      • emmers

        If he doesn’t want to brush in the morning, mouthwash is another option. It would at least deal with the breath issue, which it sounds like is the dealbreaker.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        Who are these people that wake up with pristine smelling breath in the morning?? I suppose it’s possible.

        • Amy March

          Is anyone else just voting “nah” on supposing it’s possible? Call me stubborn but no, no it is not! Maybe you’re drowning out the bad breath with breakfast and coffee, but this is my line in the sand. Your breath isn’t good first thing in the morning. It might not be necessary for dental health, but it isn’t all roses and lollipops in there.

          • LJ

            It might not be medically necessary BUT it’s obviously still a problem for LW so this seems irrelevant…?

          • Annie

            I think it’s more likely that there are varying levels of bad. And if you’ve ever been around someone who has straight up halitosis in your life, someone on the “not that bad” side of things would *seem* like they don’t *need* to brush their teeth for decent enough breath.

            My husband is more on the “decent enough” side of things. Like, yeah, it’s better when he brushes his teeth, but if he waits until 11 on a Saturday morning, we’ll still kiss and cuddle beforehand without it being gross (though I do still notice something of a difference). But my ex? I once literally gagged when he kissed me because he hadn’t brushed his teeth. He had an underlying issue as well, but brushing still made a big, big, big difference–I probably couldn’t have been with him if it didn’t. So now, my husband seems like he doesn’t need to brush his teeth at all in the morning in comparison.

        • anon

          Okay, actually for real my husband pretty much doesn’t need to brush for odor reasons. He is NOT a consistent brusher, and almost NEVER has bad breath (only after eating the typical stinky foods: onions, garlic, etc.). He also has great oral health and rarely needs anything done to his teeth at all. I think a lot of it is genetics.

      • Meredith

        Yeah.. if you’re only going to brush once a day then morning is the way to go, before you talk to people… unless you work the night shift, then I guess brush at night because that’s your morning. ;) My husband is 95% morning brusher only. It’s kind of gross to me if he eats ice cream and doesn’t go to bed without brushing his teeth, but his breath doesn’t stink that bad at night so whatever. My breath gets stinky I could never be a once a day brusher.

    • CrazyCatLibrarian

      I went tot he dentist for the first time in awhile recently and they flat out told me that brushing in the morning isn’t completely necessary, as long as you’re brushing at night, because that’s when you remove the food/whatever that causes problems. I’m much better at remembering in the morning, personally, because it tastes foul, but my fiancé is the other way. He’ll use mouthwash, but rarely brushes unless he’s in the shower. I guess it depends on whether your morning breath is horrible? Like as far as gum health goes, it isn’t strictly necessary, but it certainly does help bad breath.

      • sage

        Yeah, I’ve actually cut back on my morning brushings a little (not every morning) based on my dentist giving me a hard time about brushing my teeth the wrong way and actually causing harm to my gums (the correct version is so tedious and time consuming). If my breath smells, I’ll do a quick brush and make sure to get my tongue, but otherwise I let it go since the first thing I do at work is grab coffee anyway. I’ll get around to to forming the “correct brushing” habit in the morning, but I’m just not there yet.

        My fiance honestly forgets to brush his teeth more often than I care to think about, but he always gets an amazing report from the dentist (great teeth genetics I guess?).

      • Eh

        It’s interesting that your dentist told you that it’s less important to brush in the morning. To me, it logically makes sense that brushing at night would be more important (so your teeth aren’t stewing in all that food while you are sleeping). My husband and I talked about this last night. My husband was at the dentist about a month ago and was asked how often he brushes his teeth. He said usually at least once a day but he tries for twice a day (and doesn’t floss). He was asked when he normally brushes and he said at night. The dentist told him that it was more important to brush in the morning because the bacteria count in your mouth is the highest and your mouth is drier (brushing kick starts saliva flow in the morning).

        • CrazyCatLibrarian

          When I asked what their reasoning was (I knew I should be brushing at night but thought the morning was at least as important) they said that at night, you’ve got all the buildup from the things you’ve eaten or drank throughout the day, and if you don’t brush then it sits in your mouth all night and bacteria builds up while you’re sleeping. They said obviously twice a day is ideal, but if you’re only going to brush once, maximize the effect by doing it at night. I still don’t brush at night, because when I decide I want to sleep nothing can keep me form my bed, but I’ve started keeping a toothbrush at work since I eat breakfast and lunch there, so I can brush/floss after meals. Better than nothing, I guess?

    • Jess

      I mean, when I wake up in the morning, I have bad breath. But I’m also about to go eat and drink coffee, so why brush until I’m done with that?

      • emmers

        This is where I land, too.

      • anon

        I could not agree more.

      • MTM

        Fair, but by the sounds of it, you brush when you’re done with breakfast, and not just once a day?

        • Jess

          Probably like 50% of the time. If I’m at home, yes. If I’m already at work, I’ll usually swish some water and have a mint.

          So… I guess I look after my breath but am pretty lax about brushing in the morning.

    • Sara

      Maybe since his breath seems to be the crux of the problem, she could suggest just a swig of mouthwash in the morning instead of a full brushing. Maybe that would be easier.

      • Jessica

        Like in that Scrubs episode, just keep some on the nightstand.

    • One of my co-workers said that her husband also has miraculous lack-of-morning breath. (We were complaining about dentists in general). So it seems like some people are just ridiculously lucky.

  • Nell

    Growing up, my dad had terrible oral hygiene, and it was a cause of a lot of very ugly arguments between my parents. For me, personally, this would be a dealbreaker – and would have been a dealbreaker sometime during the dating stage. But you have made it this far, so maybe it isn’t one for you – just an annoyance or a frustration.

    Is there something cultural going on here (as in, did he grow up in a once-a-day brushing home)? Is he experiencing some sort of pain or discomfort when he brushes his teeth that makes it unbearable to do so more than once a day?

    Either way, maybe you can reframe this less as a “fiance problem” and more as a “roommate problem.” You’ve agreed to share the same air with this guy, and he’s not being a terribly good roommate if he makes that space smelly.

  • Fiona

    I have (sort of) the opposite issue. My husband has OBSESSIVE hygiene habits and foists them off on me a bit, but he does. not. clean. up. And when he does (source of arguments), he doesn’t do a very good job. He’s fine with leaving crusty dishes on the coffee table, but god forbid he go through the day with less than two showers!
    I’m trying to figure out what are baseline expectations for cleanliness, what are my preferences, how much do I want to clean, and how much really should be his job.

    • CatHerder

      My boyfriend has widely variable cleaning standards (from my point of view). I literally can never figure out what he cares about and what he doesn’t care about in terms of cleaning until it becomes an argument. Cleaning is one of the biggest problems in our relationship, as he is mildly messy with his own things but HATES other people’s mess and I don’t care about clutter but despise food being left out. It’s a constant struggle to communicate and I still think we both think the other one is irrational.

    • anony

      Same here! My husband has no problem with leaving used pots and pans on the stove all night after cooking, and empty cans and packages next to his chair in the living room, but if I leave a paper napkin on the dining room table he has to point it out to me and ask why I can’t be bothered to throw it out, and I’m like “that bothers you?” It especially peeves me off when he’ll point something like that out AFTER I just cleaned the pots and pans he left out the night before.

    • LittleOwl

      This was definitely the hardest part about moving in together. For example, H takes multiple showers a day (and smells amazing-yay!) but simply does not notice when the shower itself needs cleaning. But, he is a dish genie! It took a LONG time for us to discover this, but I’m into sanitizing things and afraid of germs (washing sheets, scrubbing the bathroom/kitchen) and he’s more into a less cluttered appearance and things looking organized (dishes put away, unpacked suitcases, folding things).

      Side note: I feel like a lot of these issues exist because they don’t teach how to clean or how to run a household (or in the case of LW, general hygiene expectations) in schools anymore. It took me a year or so of apartment living to get a handle on general life skills, like how to really clean something and not just Clorox wipe everything.

  • Anon

    To me this seems a little bit disrespectful, as in he’s making you uncomfortable for you to be around him, and I would find it embarrassing to be in a vehicle with my partner if he was stinking up the car like that and there was others in there. If it were something like “I don’t like when he doesn’t shave every single day” I could see getting the “his body, his choice” but this is something you’ve clearly spent a lot of time thinking and stressing about, and could be fixed with 2 minutes of brushing a day. I mean even if he swapped his nighttime to morning time brush, would that really kill him to save the respect you might be losing for him every day?

  • Eh

    So when I met my husband he would maybe once a day brush his teeth and he hadn’t been to the dentist in a very long time. His mom would remind him to brush his teeth every time she saw him. My in-laws said that as long and their sons were in school they would pay for visits to the dentist but my husband never took them up on that offer. So after we had been living together for a year (the plans definition of “common law”) I added him to my insurance through work and told him he had to go to the dentist. At this point he had improved his brushing habits (and he had decreased the amount of pop he drank) but all of those years of bad habits left him with 12 cavities. After he used all of my insurance coverage he still had to pay out of pocket. Even before he was on my insurance I had to force him to get his eyes examined (another thing his parents said they would pay for while he was in school). He didn’t believe me that there was an issue, even after he almost got in a car accident. Anyways he now has glasses he has to wear all the time.

    • gonzalesbeach

      My partner was same! Like 10 years without visiting the dentist because he didn’t have coverage. Now, he’s on mine, goes every 6 months (sometimes when I visit, I make an appointment for him, and then they call him a week before to confirm the appointment) and his morning breath is so much better in the now than at first during early dating [he’s a reg brusher, but it had been so long, plus there is no fluoride in water here]. I was amazed that he had zero cavities though.

      • Eh

        That’s a good idea (making the appointment)!

        I am in the health field and I should no better but I did not go to a dentist for probably 4 or 5 years. I moved a few times in those years. Didn’t have insurance for part of it. It seemed overwhelming to find a dentist (how do you pick one? I still don’t know and I am looking for one for my daughter). I actually thought I had a cavity and that was why I eventually went. Turns out I didn’t have any cavities but I had issues with clenching my jaw that was causing me the pain.

        • Lisa

          I started going to a chain of dentist locations for this reason. It was super easy to set up an appointment on-line, it was easy to transfer my patient records when I was moving, and they have crazy long hours so I don’t always have to take time off work. Maybe once we settle down somewhere we plan to be long-term I’ll find a dentist that works for us, but until then, I’m fine going to this place.

          • Eh

            I found one on the same block as where we lived when we lived in the core of the city. Now we live in the suburbs and it’s not hard for me to get there because I don’t work far from there (it’s a few bus stops away – not walkable). My husband still goes there even though it’s totally out of his way. It would be really inconvenient to take my daughter there. So I’m thinking we might all switch when I decide on a dentist for her.

          • I used to go to a chain, but then they recommended a ton of expensive things (and did so over a few visits). After the most recent visit I decided that I wasn’t sure about their scare tactics and the mounting list of expensive things I needed. Two friends that I told the story to in the 24 hours after that visit both recommended their dentist to me, and it turned out that they went to the same dentist…so I called and made an appointment with her! And….even better, I saw her and she’s great and it seems I don’t need the work that had been recommended to me and shouldn’t need anything at all done for at least a year. From this I’ve learned to make sure that I align with the approach of the dentist I see. The chain I used to go to seems to have been recommending having things done before necessary (according to my new dentist and my gut instinct and lack of any pain/problems). And I’ve since heard sometimes chains have quotas that get raised, so if that was the case with my old place, that would explain why I kept having more expensive things that were pushed…

            Anyhow, all that to say, ask friends if they like their dentist and maybe inquire with with the dentist of the people who are most enthusiastic about their dentist? I am so happy (after 7 years here!) to finally have a dentist I trust and feel really good about.

          • Lisa

            If we were planning to live in Badtown permanently, I would totally go this route, but with less than a year left here, I’m not as inclined to switch my dentist for the 1-2 cleanings I’ve got left. I am thankfully blessed with good teeth so I don’t have much to worry about in terms of up-selling! (At almost 29, I’ve never even had a cavity. *knocks on wood*) Once we’re settled in a permanent location, I’ll definitely make more of an effort to find someone local who I like. :)

          • Yeah, I totally get this. It took me having them proposing expensive stuff before I got motivated to get a second opinion (and then switch when I liked her). If it’s just cleanings I wouldn’t have bothered…

          • Eh

            One of my anxieties about picking a dentist was finding one that didn’t recommend things I didn’t need/their approach. I have a coworker who finds a new dentist every year or two because the dentists start recommending a long list of things that she doesn’t need/want. The loved the dentist I had as a kid. She rarely recommended cosmetic stuff, and if you asked her about cosmetic stuff she would question you about why you wanted it. For example, my sister is missing a bottom tooth on one side (it never came in). The orthodontist left a space to have an implant put in. My sister’s mouth was already very crowded. Our dentist asked my sister if it bothered her that she was missing a tooth. It didn’t bother her since it wasn’t a front tooth. My sister didn’t get the implant.

            I was worried about the dentist I currently see because his wife (in the same practice) does cosmetic dentistry. After my first visit I felt better about the choice. When he told me my pain was probably from clenching my jaw he told me a whole list of possible solutions/treatments (mouth guards, medications, surgery) but he said that all of them had side effects and weren’t as effective as just stopping clenching my jaw (which he recognized was easier said than done). I talked to a PT that I work with and she gave me a few tips and I stopped doing it and now my mouth doesn’t hurt. He could have told me that the most effective treatment was a mouth guard and I would have probably believed him and he could have happily taken my money.

          • Violet

            I don’t clench my jaw, but I do carry a lot of tension in my face throughout the day. (I have to remind myself to relaaaaax my face.) Any PT tips you care to share?

          • Eh

            The biggest thing was recognizing what it felt like when I was clenching (which at the time was constantly) and not clenching. And then being conscious of that, so when I realized I was clenching I could stop. Before I would sit at my desk and clench my jaw – maybe I was getting annoyed/frustrated with my work – and then it would just stay clenched. To help it relax my jaw, when I realized it was clenched, I would open my mouth and stretch my jaw and massage my face (by the joint). Eventually I started clenching my jaw less. I still do it but a lot less than I used to.

          • Violet

            Awesome, thanks!

          • Eh, my dentist as a kid also had that same approach of doing what was needed (when it was needed) and not doing unnecessary things. My old dentist (not the one as a kid, my former dentist here where I now live) recommended a very expensive mouth guard when I hadn’t been experiencing pain and don’t think I actually grind my teeth at night (but I had mentioned I used to do it as a child). (Though I do hold tension in my jaw and clench it.) The old dentist kept pushing for the mouth guard thing–and not the least expensive of the three possibilities, but the most expensive. I talked to a good friend who’s a dentist and she asked me if I was having pain, if it interfered with my sleep, etc., and after saying no to all her questions, she said she didn’t think I had a problem and even if I did, she would suggest trying to find the root of the problem. Was it stress? If so, how can I better deal with stress so that I don’t hold tension in my jaw? THAT is the kind of approach I like and my new dentist is in this camp, from what I call tell so far. My dentist friend has heard good things about my new dentist, so that was reassuring too. (And vice versa, in fact.) Your new dentist sounds good too and very practical with his approach to figure out how to stop clenching your jaw. I’d be curious to know the tips you got from the PT actually, ha!

        • Eenie

          Asking coworkers or friends in the area is how you can find a dentist, family doctor, OBGYN, etc.

          • Eh

            I have done that too for my family doctor and eye doctor and some other stuff. The dentist options never worked for me.

        • gonzalesbeach

          it can be so expensive when you don’t have insurance. not just cleaning and routine stuff but if any larger work needs to be done. I’d say friend/other referrals are often a good way to go. Also there’s a pretty big difference in training these days than in past, so I’ve switched to a dentist that was trained in the last 10 years instead of a dentist near retirement who learned and prefers to use antiquated methods.

          • Eh

            good point about the newer dentist vs older dentist!

  • Mia

    My husband is really great at twice daily brushing and flossing, but had the most terrible awful smelling breath anyway – I would get too grossed out to kiss him too. It turned out that he had a jaw infection, unrelated to teeth cleanliness, so it might be a good idea to make sure he gets the bad breath checked out, if its really that awful, there might be something worse than dirty teeth going on!

    • LJ

      halitosis can be a symptom of many things :) great call!

    • Jess

      Yeah, I get tonsil stones, so I am basically always at risk of having bad breath. I always have breath mints or gum on me.

      So, what I’m saying is, bad breath is related to brushing, but if he’s brushing at night already and it’s smelling up a car, morning brushing probably isn’t the only cause.

    • Amanda

      I agree that this seems like it could be a health problem. If he’s not bringing it up with the dentist, you might have to pull the nagging mom move and call the office beforehand or go with him to the appointment.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Exactly! It sounds like his breath is ROUGH, and I don’t think it would be *that* bad just from skipping the morning brushing alone.

    • AnonToday

      I’m like this as well. I can brush 3 times a day and still have terrible breath, and I’ve never figured out medically why that is but it also appears to be a family thing. My husband and I have a pact where he tells me if there’s an issue so I can take care of it, but factually/without judgment. Typically he just suggests that I might want to go swish some mouthwash or something (or, if in public, offering me some gum, which is our signal).

      But it actually took us awhile to get there, because for quite a while he didn’t believe me when I said I actually do brush often, and then there were all these negative assumptions that people with bad breath are gross/unsanitary/lazy/etc which he totally bought into. So when he approached me about it, he tended to make it into a big deal, and I’m already super sensitive about it, and that would end up in fights and resentment on both ends.

      So this letter hit a bit close to home, and I’d suggest to LW to try to set aside the stigma if she can and just approach this a bit more neutrally. Like there’s a behavior here, and a solution that involves addressing the behavior somehow, but judging your fiance or overreacting to the situation isn’t likely to help.

      • Sara

        I love this system y’all have worked out – the definition of having each other’s back.

    • EF

      man i get this — every few years i can tell my breath is off, and it’s a tooth rotting underneath an old filling or crown (i grew up poor and have shit teeth. taking care of them now means that decay and rot can still happen with old, badly done fillings). but i’m also SUPER aware to be on the lookout (smell/taste out?) of when this might happen.

      side note: my partner doesn’t brush his teeth until *after* coffee/breakfast in the morning and I always brush before coffee. it weirds me out he does it in the other order, but hey, he also has no fillings or decay, so i guess it works.

  • laddibugg

    Ok, this is sort of a TMI question but it’s the first thing I thought of when you said it affects your sex life….if he, um, orally pleasures you he STILL doesn’t brush his teeth in the AM? My partner and I make jokes about brushing ‘because we don’t want to go to work with [insert genitals] on our breath’. At the very least I rinse while I’m in the bathroom. Sorry, I know it’s gross but my mind wanders into crazy territory sometimes.

    • LJ

      >< hahahah!!!

    • gonzalesbeach

      you know what, there is a concern is that with all that bacteria in his mouth – he’s passing it to her lady parts.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        criiiiiiiiiinge

  • Vanessa

    Fun fact! from Mary Roach’s Gulp: morning breath is the smell of your dead mouth, gum, and tongue cells decaying in your mouth overnight. Maybe you should share this info with him.

    • Liz

      This is amazing and yet I sort of wish I didn’t know it…?

      • Vanessa

        Yep. But hopefully the thought of decomposing tongue cells is enough to push the fiance or any other non-brushers over the edge.

  • heyqueen

    This is one of the realest ask APWs of all time.

  • Mrrpaderp

    I have a bit of a different take. LW has known about this for a long time and has decided, over and over, that it was an annoyance, sure, but wasn’t a dealbreaker for her. Now, three months before the wedding, LW is having a bit of a crisis. This is something a lot of us go through in the months leading up to the wedding – “Wait you mean I’m going to have to deal with this FOREVER???? I thought I was cool with it but now shit is getting real and I’m having all the feels about it.”

    I’m not sure I have great advice about how to work through these feelings, I’ve certainly experienced some myself. But recognizing what’s happening – that it’s about YOU processing your own feelings, not just about his annoying bad habit – really helps to put it in perspective.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Yes, this is such a good point!
      Honestly, it doesn’t sound like the boyfriend is doing anything thaaat vile (goodness knows I’m not perfect about brushing my teeth in the morning, and so far, the world hasn’t exactly fallen apart). However, all of this stuff becomes super amplified pre-wedding. Because yeah, when you frame what’s otherwise a minor annoyance as A Lifetime of Bad Breath/Not Making the Bed/Wasting $2 On Gas Station Soda/Leaving Dirty Underwear on the Floor, it can feel like a huge deal.

  • Amanda

    I had questionable dental hygiene habits in the past, which I chalk up to general laziness and an aversion to how the soaps in toothpaste made my mouth feel – icky and dry. I found a new kind of toothpaste and it has totally changed my feelings about brushing. There’s no foaming agents so it doesn’t make my mouth feel weird after. Thought I’d throw it out here in case anyone else would like it!
    http://www.livionexdental.com/Livionex_Dental_Gel_p/liv4413.htm

    • sorryanon

      Checking this out…my husband is a non-night-brusher because he says it makes him congested (!?!?) and I don’t really know what could cause that. He doesn’t mind it in the morning.

  • Her Lindsayship

    LW, I totally get that this is your problem by virtue of his mouth being in your vicinity for most of the time for presumably the rest of your life, and by virtue of the affects on his health which matters to you – but I HATE that this is your problem. It seriously shouldn’t be. He’s an adult!! You should not have to spend any of your precious time worrying about it, he should not need a caretaker at this stage of life.

    All of that said, my fiancé is much better about brushing + flossing than I am, and in fact I am terrible about flossing. This post might have been the push I needed…

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Would he compromise and swish with mouthwash in the morning? Maybe you could leave a bottle on the kitchen counter, and get in the habit of a swish and spit when he’s done with breakfast.

  • Amber

    I’m kinda surprised at the harsh, judgmental “this is vile” in the headline, doesn’t seem very APW-like. This seems more like a bad breath issue, which can be caused by all kinds of things, so to call this human disgusting for brushing his teeth once a day and possibly having an underlying health condition, not cool.

    The guy brushes his teeth, just not in the morning. If he’s brushing his teeth at night and waking up with breath that horrible, there might be an issue going on. Does he use mouthwash? That could help curb the bad morning breath by killing more germs.

    I don’t brush my teeth in the morning either (guess I’m vile?). I went to bed with a brushed, Listerine-ed mouth, and I don’t eat breakfast at home, why would I brush my teeth before eating? I don’t seem to have foul breath in the morning.

    • Liz

      Sorry it struck you that way. If you read the way the title’s written, it’s meant to be from the pen of the LW. Trying to sum up her many paragraphs of feelings in a succinct sentence can be tough.

    • Jess

      APW has been getting those “Wow, this was pretty judgemental” comments about titles and essays a lot recently, and more click baity titles in general.

      I’m sure it’s in the interest of drumming up controversy for comment numbers and traffic increase, but it’s been a big change in writing style for the site in the last year.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Seriously, the whole thing kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and I suspect it was because of the tone of the headline. Like, I don’t brush my teeth every single morning. My fiance doesn’t brush his teeth every single morning. As far as I can tell, nobody is just super grossed out by either of us! (Or you know, maybe we are The Smelly Couple and none of our friends have the heart to tell us…but I really don’t think so!)
      Also, for real, does the LW’s boyfriend by chance have sinus issues? Because I know that when my fiance or I is having sinus problems, no amount of tooth brushing will fix the breath issue! If his breath is THAT bad, I would definitely be inclined to think that either there’s an underlying health issue or the author just has a super sensitive nose ever.

    • HarshTruth

      OMG why is there a comment like this at least once a week? Seriously – you gotta stop whining. You complain about the title but yet you clicked on it AND left a comment. Some of yall are just never satisfied with APW content so maybe go read something else?

      Frankly, not brushing IS vile and I’m glad someone has the balls to say it instead of trying to comfort every special little snowflake that thinks going out the house with gross morning breath is ok.

    • Anonthistime

      I also only brush my teeth once a day, but it’s in the morning instead of at night. While my husband jokes with me about only brushing once a day (he brushes 2-3 times), it seems to be coming more from his OCD side than him feeling like there is an odor/health problem. He hasn’t been to the dentist during our entire relationship (8+ years), while I go every 6-9 months. My dentist has told me on numerous occasions that if I was only going to brush once a day, it SHOULD be at night, but it makes me feel ick to not brush in the morning.

      The issue here really doesn’t seem to be the brushing of his teeth, it’s the odor, and what might be causing it. If it were me, I would really want to know that my breath was disgusting to others, and I would REALLY be concerned if it was having this effect on my relationship (less kissing, and so on).

  • Markie Beth

    So right around the beginning of my relationship (8 years ago) my mother died, and all my good habits and motivation went out the window.
    I couldn’t find the spirit to get up every morning, and if I was able to get out of bed I certainly didn’t have the brain power for teeth brushing.
    As time passed and my partner noticed, she mentioned it. She didn’t understand what was making me do it, and didn’t push too hard.
    A few years and expensive dental bills later, it had become a habit that I couldn’t manage to get back into regularly. And we talked about it. And it didn’t stick. And we talked about it. And it didn’t stick. But every day she mentioned it, and every day she said that she loved me and that she just wanted me to be healthy and happy and happy because I was healthy.
    Every day.

    Eventually I was able to deal with both my teeth habits and my mourning.

    Talk to him honestly. Maybe it’s something other than just his teeth?

  • Ebloom

    So, I used to be way more lax on dental care, and because I have genetically good teeth, that can apparently go 10 years without a cleaning and only have 2 minor cavities that were so minor I didn’t even need to be numbed to get them filled (thanks Dad!). BUT. That was before I learned that when we wake up our mouths are full of toxic bacteria that is so bad it can actually cause prenatal problems in infants. Actually, the importance of flossing was even mentioned in a health booklet we got when we applied for our marriage liscence. No one wants that in their mouths. Brush, brush them good. Floss. Go for bi-yearly check-ups and cleanings. This whole post made me feel incredibly grateful that I got the message.

  • A single Sarah

    My roomie and I regularly have toothbrushing parties on our way to bed. Gentlemen callers are forced to play along.

    Our morning routines don’t overlap. But if yours do, maybe making it a joint activity could help y’all build the habit?

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  • Marie Tachouet

    Hey there! Ok, this is somewhat gross, amusing, perplexing all at the same time. Don’t know what to tell you! I’m a flute player, and we brush our teeth ALL the time (i.e.: after we eat anything) because sugar and gunk can wreck our instruments. BUT…I will say, I have some very premature gum recession that is quite painful, which can be caused by rough brushing. It sounds like he brushes a long time at night, so I hope he is using a gentle hand!

  • Ann

    Not to sidestep the communication issue here (he should definitely respect your wishes here; it’s a 3-minute cost to him versus all-day uncomfortableness for you!) but I would just like to point out that often brushing your tongue has a bigger impact on stench reduction than brushing your teeth (presuming you’re already doing the latter).

  • Sara

    I love this part of the response: “By marrying one another, we’re sort of charged with taking care of one
    another. So it’s really unfair to make that job harder for each other.”

    It highlights how much emotional labor here is falling to the LW. She is worried about hurting his feelings, worried about his health, worried about his consequences at work or socially, worried about the impact on her, worried about their sex life together… oy. All because he can’t grow up and take care of himself without being asked, or worse, demanded. I don’t know how to make him see how important it is, but she has to, somehow. If he honestly still outright refused (note: not occasionally forgot, but REFUSED), it would be a dealbreaker for me personally.

    I accept smaller burdens of emotional labor in my relationship – did you eat some sort of vegetable today? did you schedule that dermatologist appointment? did you pick out a wedding gift for your cousin? did you pack your healthy lunch today so you don’t end up spending $20 on a 1600 calorie meal instead? – etc. So I can only imagine how annoying this issue would be as well. Part of a larger problem for many of us.

  • Jessy

    How can you love someone you can’t even kiss? And why would you say yes to someone who does something that repulses you. That’s just plain nasty and my man has been guilty of doing this once in a while and I light him up about it anytime because I find it filthy, disgusting, and most importantly disrespectful. How dare you think that you should even be speaking to me without concern that I can smell that? How dare you think you can talk in my face or kiss me? Absolutely disgusting