Dentist thinks part of the reason for bad breath in Japan is cultural.
Upon arriving in Japan, many people from overseas are impressed by how nicely dressed and well-groomed, on average, the local population is. However, in a survey conducted by Japanese women’s interest magazine Shukan Josei Prime, many foreigners living in Japan expressed dismay at bad breath they’ve encountered in the country.
Shukan Josei Prime collected responses from 100 survey participants, and when asked “Have you ever been disappointed by a Japanese person’s breath?” 72 percent answered “Yes.” 72 percent also said they want Japanese people to “be thorough regarding oral hygiene and care,” and the identical numbers make sense, since once you find someone’s breath bad enough that you feel full-on disappointment, you’re probably past being able to shrug the odor off as a “you do you” sort of thing. One respondent reportedly went so far as to say “I love Japanese people, but their breath is terrible. Honestly, there’s no country with worse breath.”
So what’s the cause of this disappointingly dismal breath quality?Shukan Josei Prime spoke with dentist Maki Morishita, a representative for the Japan Dental Research Institute, who hypothesized there might be some cultural characteristics that make Japanese people more susceptible to inadvertently bad breath. “Japanese people tend to maintain more personal space than people in the West,” says Morishita, referring to how hugs, handshakes, high-fives, and public kissing are all comparatively rare in Japan. “Japanese people are also conscious about not opening their mouths very wide when they laugh, because they think it’s impolite. So there’s less pressure to take care of your breath, and so attitudes about oral hygiene can become lax.”