This might be dangerous to put in ink considering my line of work, which is mostly comprised of writing about extreme bathing events, but here it goes: I don’t care about oral hygiene at all. I’m an ardent cleanser, toner and moisturizer on all other bits of my body, and kissing is my only hobby, but I just can’t seem to get it up for brushing my teeth.
Have your teeth ever felt furry? Mine always do. I kind of like it! I still sleep with a golden retriever stuffed animal every night. But then comes the bad breath. Oh my god, my breath is so bad sometimes. I still can’t bring myself to brush my teeth. Instead, I’ve used innovative and holistic and expensive methods to combat halitosis. They’re a lot less effective and a lot more finicky than brushing my teeth for one minute twice a day, but I’m nothing if not a complicated representation of womanhood!
The two best things I found to fight bad breath were not the “best” in the conventional sense in that they worked, but that I found extreme comedy in their names and product descriptions, and that is always good enough for me. One of them is a product called Nature’s Way Chlorofresh Liquid Chlorophyll, billed as an “internal deodorant.” Nobody on the internet has any idea what that means, least of all me. I’ll tell you this much about the internal deodorant though: I don’t really think it deodorizes my internal organs, but it sure is a beautiful emerald color. I want to dip-dye a tee shirt or the ends of my hair with it. If only it were still senior year of college!
I bought the mint flavor of the internal deodorant and mixed it with half a cup of water. I didn’t love the taste. That could be my fault. My Brita filter has been acting up for the last three weeks and I haven’t done much about it. I swished and gargled. It had been at least 24 hours since I brushed my teeth. I gagged on it for a minute (recalling The Tooth Soap Incident of September 2016) and spit it out. I drank an entire thing of Evian, which wasn’t Evian by that point, but the seventh refill of tap water from a school drinking fountain. I want people to think I’m better than I am!
Then I licked my wrist, because I once heard in 7th grade that licking your wrist was a surefire way to tell if your breath smelled bad. Something about “transference.” My breath had an almost sweetness to its rottenness now. Not at all what I needed to achieve. So I took it straight, no solution. Still no dice. Still gagging. Now: green teeth. A beautiful shade, though, as green as the miles of rolling corn fields in July of my native Illinois.
The other second funniest best breath-abater was a product called Nux Vomica which has a hilarious name with an incredibly grave origin: It’s strychnine, which is sometimes used as a rat poison. Various thought leaders on the homeopathic net told me it’s not rat poison for humans though, it’s a heartburn and bad breath reliever. Still, having done extensive research on the plant (googling “strychnine death human girl 159 pounds”), I proceeded with caution. The tube of Nux Vomica told me to take five pellets three times a day. Instead, I took one pellet one time a day for one day, and convinced myself I was dying for the next three days.
And then when I didn’t die and yet my bad breath wasn’t cured, I went back to the Whole Foods and bought more homeopathic supplements, chelidonium majus and borax, which is not a multi-surface industrial cleaner as I had assumed. Chelidonium works for indigestion and borax for canker sores, but both are said to work for halitosis, at least according to this internet thread titled “Breath smells like faeces (poo).”
Neither worked. I bought a tongue scraper at the drugstore. This was probably the most effective of any of the herbal remedies I tried, which is wild because it is made out of BPA plastic. The product’s slogan, as listed on the CVS website, is “Smile Brite Tongue-Cleaner: A Step Forward for Humanity.” A little appropriative of Neil Armstrong, Smile Brite! Anyways, I’m a moon landing truther. This thing shaves bacterial plaque off the top of the tongue like a steel-plane knife to a piece of sharp cheddar. I had a sick fascination in looking at the white gunk-and-saliva mixture I scraped off my tongue. This worked temporarily, but the plaque grew back, as plaque does.
I persevered by chewing hard raw herbs that fight bad breath, creating a sort of trail mix of parsley, fennel and whole cloves. Plus M&M’s! Can’t have a good trail mix without them. (Just kidding about the M&M’s.) If I had to make a definitive ranking of the taste of these halitosis-wrestling herbs, it would look something like this:
-1. Whole cloves (taste extremely bad, but bonus points because they tasted like the cigarillos I used to smoke in high school to act “cool” in front of boys)
-2. Fennel (also extremely bad, but tastes like licorice, if I’m being generous)
-400. Parsley (horrible, hate it even in meatballs)
I ended up brushing my teeth. That worked best.
Claire Carusillo is a freelance and fiction writer in New York. She writes a weekly beauty newsletter offering off-label product usage advice. Photo by Krista Anna Lewis; Elizabeth wearing NARS lipstick in “Cruella” shade.
Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.