For any occasion when fresh breath is required (i.e., any and all occasions in life), gum will usually suffice.

It offers the dual benefits of long-lasting gustatory pleasure for you, the chewer, and continuous olfactory gratification for anyone in your vicinity in almost every imaginable social setting.

On a Friday evening cocktail date or at a Monday morning business meeting, a piece of gum can help occupy your tongue, without having to resort to biting it, when your opinion should be kept behind closed lips. And if an exchange of ideas (or of kisses) should become necessary, gum is sure to ensure a smooth, sweet — and likely extended — transaction.

But the one situation when your obsession with Extra becomes a bit, well, extra always occurs the morning after (the date, not the business meeting), at 7:00 a.m. in a semi-stranger’s bed. “Did you sleep with that in your mouth?” he might1 ask, horrified, after you surreptitiously consult the gum pack in your purse on the nightstand, grind your molars against the pillow to dampen the echoes of your mastication, and then turn to murmur a sexy “good morning” with suspiciously minty morning breath — and an obvious wad in your cheek.

A mint, of course, is also inadequate for this task, since the brief burst of Altoids’ freshness, too quick no matter how curiously strong, will slip down your throat faster than his tongue.

So like ardent lovers everywhere, you naturally celebrated the announcement of the recent release of a long-lasting solution that promises it “freshens breath anytime, anywhere” (emphasis added). Behold Listerine Ready! Tabs (emphatic exclamation point not added). These small, nondescript white squares, which might at first be mistaken for members of the far inferior (and previously dismissed) mint or gum species, transform from grit against your teeth into a sweet mouthwash that you’re expected to swallow (though you can still decline your date’s similar request later on). You won’t consume any alcohol, however (or, incidentally, sugar), since Listerine likely assumes you consumed enough (of one or both) the night before.

Even with a hangover, you’ll be able to reach quietly for your clutch (positioned strategically beside the bed), slip out the slim, ergonomically designed eight-pack of the ready-and-waiting Tabs, and easily maneuver the clever pop-up cardboard tab. And if your vision (or your brain) is still blurry from last night’s wine, or if you left your glasses at home because they clashed with your date-night dress, the pack will rescue you with large pictorial, step-by-step ingestion instructions:

1. “Chew” the silky-soft substance only once or twice, until it settles, like silty grit at the bottom of a riverbed, into your back molars, then lifts magically into a rushing river of sugary saliva (a/k/a mouthwash). Unfortunately, that rising tide of Xylitol may also carry said sedimentary particles across the tongue and gums, and then deposit large flecks — dyed an unnecessarily bright blue — right between your two front teeth. So while the olfactory crisis of morning breath may be abating, a new visual issue has now arisen to sabotage your “come kiss me” morning smile.

However, if you …

2. “Swish” vigorously enough, you may dislodge any blue bits, destroy any bacteria… and disrupt any of your bedmate’s peaceful dreams. But attempting silent, or even just subtle, sloshing is an oxymoronic (or perhaps plain moronic) endeavor. You’ll wind up contorting your cheeks and lips into a kind of slow, pulsing pucker — which, on second thought, your accidentally awoken lover may actually find rather alluring, if the proliferation of fish-lip selfies on Snapchat and Instagram is any indication of men’s strange tastes. Meanwhile, you’ll be retaining a mouthful of cloying liquid while repeatedly trying to will yourself toward the (perfectly natural and logical, you tell yourself) next step: purposely allowing this chemical concoction to descend down your throat.

So instead, just …

3. “Swallow” your pride. Wake up your date (if you haven’t already) with a commotion of the covers, and let him gasp at the smidgen of cellulite on your thighs in the bare morning light — a fate far less fatal than his catching even the faintest whiff of your monstrous morning breath. Whatever the cost, get thee to the bathroom sink, the only proper surface over which to swish or slosh or gargle — and then, yes, spit — Listerine (despite the company’s cutesy commercials to the contrary). The sink also features the added bonus of a mirror, so you can monitor the status of your eyeliner, and a bar of soap, so you can make your armpits as fresh as your oral cavity.

Then return with a sparkling smile to “your” side of the bed… that by now he’s already abandoned, unable to return to sleep after your Ready!-Tab rigmarole.

But if you’re lucky, you’ll locate him in the kitchen making you a cup of morning joe. Which, of course, will give you coffee breath. Which is, luckily, one of the 99% of life occasions when gum will certainly suffice.

- - -

1 Theoretically, of course. The author would never find herself in such a compromising position.