The Covid-19 pandemic has made mask-wearing a norm, or rather, mandatory. Wearing a mask may reduce your risk of contracting (and spreading) Covid-19, but it has also led to maskne and perhaps even a foul smell… which is actually your bad breath.
Yes, you might have bad breath, but probably no one has told you about it. No, it’s really not because of the mask that you wear.
Rather, it’s likely that your breath was on the fouler side all along, just that with the mask, it’s now painfully obvious as you are now constantly exhaling into a covering that’s over our nose all the time.
What causes bad breath when wearing a mask?
“The mask doesn’t make us have bad breath” says Mark S. Wolff, a dentist and dean of Pennsylvania’s School of Dental Medicine who has spent many years researching why our breath can sometimes turn stinky. “It makes us more conscious that we have bad breath.”
He explains in an interview with the South China Morning Post: “It’s as if we cupped our hands in front of our face to test our breath.. but it’s there all the time.”
Here’s some good news though. According to the US Academy of General Dentistry, up to 80 million people have bad breath, so you are definitely not suffering alone.
Our mouths are usually already filled with bacteria, left over from the food we eat, and hidden between our teeth, under our gums, at the back of our tongues and in our sinuses, according to Dr Wolff. There are also natural bacteria that live in our mouths.
Speaking with CNA, Koh Chu Guan, a senior consultant with National Dental Centre Singapore’s Department of Restorative Dentistry shares that the moist air filled with bacteria is produced when we breathe, especially through our mouths, and it gets trapped in the fabric of masks. When it dries out, it potentially leaves an odour on the fabric.
Certain types of fabric may trap less air if it is thin and porous, but it doesn’t mean that the wearer doesn’t have bad breath; they’ll just be less aware.
Ways to mitigate the odour
Want to get rid of that bad stench when wearing a mask? Aside from avoiding pungent food items, here’s what you can do.