By: Rosie Torres, R.D.H.
Chances are, face coverings are probably here to stay for awhile. We all know that they help to protect us from Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), but one of the side effects of wearing them might be creating a new type of quarantine – one in which we’re stuck with some stinky breath! The fear of having bad breath, or “Halitophobia,” is on the rise thanks to your mask. Generally, most people are unaware of how good or bad their breath actually smells – even when it’s really bad. But when you’re constantly exhaling under your mask, your breath is right below your nostrils, so you’re more aware of its warmth, moistness and…well…just plain stinkiness. We all want fresher-smelling breath, so here are some tips to fight off the dreaded Mouth Mask Pandemic.
#1 Choose Your Face Covering Type
When you breathe mostly through your mouth (and this is happening more frequently as we spend more of our time in masks), the moist air filled with bacteria gets trapped in the fabric of the mask. As it dries out, it can leave a foul smell on the fabric. Thinner and more porous types of fabric may trap less air, but beware! This doesn’t mean that you don’t have bad breath. You just might notice it less.
#2 Don’t Forget Your Tongue
Our mouths are usually full of bacteria that are left over from the food that we eat. Bacteria hide between our teeth, under our gums and at the back of our tongues and in our sinuses. There are also naturally-occuring bacteria that live in our mouths. Basic oral hygiene is essential for maintaining fresh-smelling breath. Besides brushing your teeth twice a day, for two minutes using a soft toothbrush and flossing daily, you should also scrape or brush your tongue every time you brush. The tongue is a huge source of halitosis. Most of the bacteria in the mouth takes up residence on the back of your tongue.
To scrape your tongue, follow these steps:
- Stand in front of a mirror, open your mouth, and stick out your tongue.
- Gently set the rounded end of the tongue scraper at the back of your tongue.
- If you worry about gagging, you might find it helpful to start at the middle of your tongue. You can gradually start from farther back as you get used to scraping.
- Gently touch the scraper to your tongue. Slowly pull it forward, toward the tip of your tongue. You should never push the scraper from the tip of your tongue back. Always go from the back of the tongue to the tip.
- After each scrape, use a washcloth or tissue to remove debris from the scraper.
- Repeat until you’ve scraped the entire surface of your tongue. One to two scrapes across the same area is usually enough.
- Wash the tongue scraper with warm water and soap, dry, and store in a clean, dry area.
The entire process usually takes less than two minutes. I like the Breath Rx tongue cleaner by Philips.
#3 You are What You Eat (and Drink)
Foods such as garlic and onions and drinks like coffee can leave a pungent odor in your mouth. Sugary sweets and alcoholic beverages also contribute to bad breath, since the bacteria in the mouth feast on the sugar. Low or no-carbohydrate diets and high protein diets can also contribute to chronic bad breath. Both result in the body breaking down fat for energy instead of carbs, which release chemicals that smell. Some foods that can help to reduce bad breath include parsley, cilantro, broccoli and red bell pepper.
#4 Health Issues
Bad breath can sometimes be caused by chronic health issues such as diabetes as well as sinus, respiratory tract, liver and kidney problems. Even certain medications (such as those for treating Type 2 diabetes, aspirin, antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics and decongestants) can be a source of your foul breath. Certain vitamin supplements, such as omega 3 fatty acids, can also be a culprit. To create better-smelling breath, stimulate the production of fresh saliva. You can do this by gargling with an alcohol-free mouthwash, or by popping some sugar-free mints or gum. There are also some great products available that contain Xylitol (a natural sugar substitute). Xylitol starves the plaque-producing bacteria in your mouth, feeds the friendly microbes in your digestive system and reduces dry-mouth. My favorite ones are Xylimelts and you can use them during the day or while you are sleeping!
#5 Schedule Your Regular Dental Cleaning
Schedule bi-annual dental cleanings and exams with your dentist to rule out the root causes of bad breath such as periodontal disease, gingivitis, impacted wisdom teeth and tooth decay. A professional dental cleaning will remove any foul odor-causing bacteria that live in the plaque and tartar that can form on your teeth and gums. Your dedicated dental team at Gallery 57 Dental is here and ready to get your mouth minty fresh!