By now, we’re all familiar with the frustrations that come with wearing face masks. Our voices are muffled when we talk, our breathing is impeded, our glasses get foggy, and perhaps the most annoying one: the smell of our own breaths get stuck under our masks.
To be fair, bad breath is nothing new, and probably not a big deal either. The incidence of bad breath, or halitosis, in the Philippines is at roughly 75%, where most cases are owed to people simply overlooking oral care. With masks becoming a must, expect that more people are exhaling scents of adobo or kare-kare.
But the very masks that trap our breaths below our noses also help block it from others — so it should be fine, right? Well, unless you’re fine with inhaling your funky, fusty breath the whole day, then you can carry on, but there are a few more drawbacks than just the stink.
What causes bad mask breath?
The reasons your breath reeks under your mask are related to the downsides of wearing one.
One reason is that you’ve resorted to breathing through your mouth. Since breathing through your nose requires extra effort under a mask, we have to compensate by coursing the air through our mouths. This leads to a dry mouth, meaning there’s less saliva to fight germs and cleanse our tooth, leading to a build-up of bad bacteria.
The next reason amplifies the first one: we get to use our mouths less often. We talk with fewer people, we drink water less often, and the time between meals — moments when we could have replenished our saliva — has become wider due to mask restrictions. What does this lead to? Stale mouths and sour breaths.
How do you beat bad mask breath?
The best action to get rid of unpleasant breath is done before putting the mask on and after taking it off: proper oral care.
If you haven’t, here’s your reminder to brush your teeth today. Dentists advise brushing your teeth twice a day, preferably after your first meal in the morning and before you go to sleep at night. You should also gargle with an antibacterial mouthwash, and scrub those ulam leftovers to prevent halitosis.
A quick solution can also be done while your mask is on: chewing sugarless gums. This keeps your mouth busy by producing saliva to keep your mouth wet without having to remove your mask to drink or talk.
Drinking lots of caffeine, eating too many sweets, and smoking frequently also contributes to bad mask breath, so you might want to cut down on those too (sorry, we don’t make the rules!).
If the smell still lingers, it might be more than just poor oral care, and might be a symptom of worse infections. Contact your physician if the problem persists.
Masks are certainly here to stay. So, even though no one can catch your bad breath from beneath your mask, you still owe it to yourself to observe proper oral care. Unless you already miss the mechado you ate for lunch.