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Can your mask give you bad breath?

By Dr DIKSHA TAHILRAMANI BATRA
September 16, 2021 11:34 IST
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If you are not following the right mask hygiene, you could be suffering from 'mask mouth'. Here's how you can avoid this problem.

Kindly note that this image has been posted only for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Adah Sharma/Instagram

Is wearing a mask highlighting a bad breath problem you didn't realise you had?

Halitosis is the medical term for this highly prevalent yet rarely addressed condition.

While the mask, our constant companion, provides respite from the foul odour of someone with halitosis, it has also made us acutely aware of the quality of our own breath! 

While wearing a mask is not optional, long hours of mask wear has led to many accompanying issues such as mouth breathing, dehydration, dryness of the mouth and chapping of lips, besides leaving us with maskne (mask acne) and other unwanted side effects.

The prolonged usage of masks has worsened the underlying dormant oral conditions in numerous patients and is loosely labelled as 'mask mouth'.

Here are five simple tips to avoid bad breath while wearing a mask:

1. Rinse after meals

The easiest hack for fresh breath, with or without masks, is to rinse after eating. This is to ensure that no food particles remain stuck between your teeth.

If food particles remain in your mouth, and is coupled with inadequate oral hygiene, you could end up with bad breath.

2. Stay hydrated

Long hours of wearing a mask cause us to limit our water intake considerably.

This creates a condition called 'dry mouth', which leads to the sluggish passage of food in our mouth.

When our soft tissues, like the tongue and gums, dry up, they become a haven for bacteria. This causes the release of noxious gases that create an unpleasant smell.

The key is to drink water at regular intervals and stay well hydrated.

3. Consciously breathing from your nose

After we started wearing masks, breathing from the mouth has become an adaptive mechanism.

This passage of air through the mouth causes its tissues to dry up.

We can prevent this by consciously breathing through our nose.

You can also isolate yourself at regular intervals and take off your mask so that you can breathe normally.

4. Get an oral health check-up

Most people have postponed their routine dental care and follow-up during the pandemic. As a result, many may be victims of undiscovered decay and gum disease, both of which lead to halitosis.

A routine check-up will help uncover the usual suspects like plaque, tartar and dental decay.

Treating these conditions on time should, literally speaking, give you a fresh start.

5. Mask hygiene and etiquette

While masks are now mandatory, basic hygiene measures are not being followed to clean or sanitise them.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is using the same mask beyond the recommended period. The remnants of saliva and gases released after digestion are captured within the mask and play a role in perpetuating halitosis.

The hygienic storage of your mask, discarding it on time and washing cloth masks daily can greatly reduce any contributory effects on your breath.

If bad breath is a severe challenge for you and has worsened after you started wearing a mask, then upgrade your oral care regime to brushing twice a day.

Floss regularly between all your teeth and use a medical grade mouthwash.

Additionally, ensure your diet remains free of foods that are odoriferous.

Reduce intake of raw garlic, onion and seafood.

Do rinse your mouth regularly to reduce and prevent bad breath.

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Dr DIKSHA TAHILRAMANI BATRA
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