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Posted on October 5, 2020
Getting used to wearing a mask can be hard. Especially here in Florida where it’s hot and humid, a mask can feel stifling. Still, it’s worth it to help protect our community and each other. But there is one aspect of wearing a mask that may have come as a surprise to some of us: oh my gosh, is that what my breath smells like??
When wearing a mask, there is a small amount of your breath that gets trapped inside and those odor-causing compounds really make themselves known after a while. Many of us have chronic halitosis (bad breath) and never know it. We get used to the smell, and we usually don’t breathe a lot of our own breath back in. Strap on a mask to seal in the flavor, however, and suddenly we are keenly aware of smells we didn’t realize we were making.
Bad breath is going to come largely from bacterial off-gassing, so keeping your plaque under control is the best thing you can do to improve your breath. Keep brushing thoroughly twice every day, and floss or use a WaterPik at least once per day. And don’t forget to brush that tongue!
Many of us breathe through our mouth when in a mask, which will dry out the oral environment and make bad breath worse. Using a rinse like Biotene and staying well hydrated will also help keep bad breath at bay. Since letting your mouth dry out can allow bacterial to bloom and their odors to concentrate, moisture is essential to treating bad breath.
We all know garlic and onion tend to cause bad breath. Coffee, alcohol, and obviously smoking and chewing tobacco also rank high on the list for odor-causing habits. But did you know low-carb diets can also cause foul breath? If you’re trying to cut carbs, you’re probably eating a lot of high protein foods, which can break down into bad smelling biproducts. If you’re going full keto, your body will start to produce some very potent malodorous compounds. A balanced diet high in plant-based foods is a great way to fight bad breath.
If you wear a cloth or reusable mask, make sure you wash it regularly! Malodor will start to be especially potent if you allow the moisture from your breath to dry and build up in the cloth of your mask. It’s best to have several reusable masks that you can rotate and launder regularly. If you use a disposable mask, try to change it out regularly. Most disposables should be changed about every hour. However, with the mask shortage, you may need to use disposable masks for longer than intended, or even reuse them. Let them dry out completely in a paper bag, ideally in a hot car, for a few days between uses if you can.
Perhaps most important of all, if you want to eliminate bad breath, you need to make sure your dental health is excellent! Cavities and gum disease can cause intense bad smells in your oral environment. Severe gum disease can actually create necrosis and the smell of decaying cells will get your attention in a bad way. Same applies to cavities and the odor of a rotten tooth. Controlling plaque and tartar, keeping your enamel healthy and stable, and treating gum disease will all ensure significantly better breath.
Allergies, tonsil problems, lung disease, diabetes, reflux, or a host of other whole-body health concerns can all contribute to bad breath. See your doctor if your chronic halitosis seems more significant than it should be. Bad breath can actually be a strong indicator of other problems.
My five-year-old son has suddenly decided to try and get away without brushing his teeth in the morning. Joke’s on him, though. I put his mask on for a play date at the park, and within a few minutes he looked at me and say, “Ugh, did someone fart? Oh, wait, I didn’t brush my teeth.” Poor kid had to suffer the smell of his own breath the whole time. He’s been much better about morning brushing since then.
Don’t let your breath make mask-wearing any more uncomfortable than it has to be. Even if you’re only around your family and can take your mask off, don’t make them suffer! Make sure to get your regular cleanings and stay on top of your home care so you can keep smelling sweet, Orlando!
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