How to Combat 'Mask Breath' and the Pandemic of Halitosis

mask breath
One not-so-awesome side effect of wearing masks? Smelling your own breath. HowStuffWorks

Halitophobia, or the fear of having bad breath, is nothing new. In fact about 25 percent of the population actually have halitosis for real. But in the age of the coronavirus pandemic — and wearing masks — bad breath is newly problematic for a lot of us.

On the upside, most people won't be able to smell your breath at all because you're wearing a face covering. The downside, though, is you're smelling your own breath in ways you probably never have before thanks to your mask.



The thing is most people are often generally unaware of how their breath smells — even when it's bad. Until now. Wearing a mask works to combat the coronavirus pandemic by preventing yours and others' breath from traveling freely. That means when you exhale, your breath is collecting just below your nostrils, which is a little uncomfortable because it's warmth, moist and, frankly it smells.

So how can you combat "mask breath?" Bad breath can occasionally be caused by chronic health issues unrelated to your mouth, such as diabetes or problems with the liver, kidneys, sinuses or respiratory tract. Other factors could include your diet, particularly if you're eating pungent foods like garlic and onions. In this case, it's not even that the food odors linger in your mouth; it's that they're pushed back out into the atmosphere as your body's digesting your meal.

Other sources of bad breath-inducing foods include sugary sweets and alcoholic beverages, which cause odors as the bacteria in your mouth feast on the sugar.

Of course, dental problems are also a common source of bad breath, including cavities, gum disease and impacted wisdom teeth. These long-term problems are often the result of bad habits that also create short-term bad breath issues. Food from your last meal or two that hasn't yet been flossed or brushed away, will break down in your mouth, causing foul odors. And of course, smoking is another thing that will surely make your breath stink.

Good dental hygiene, such as flossing, brushing, and regular cleanings and checkups with a dentist will help reduce dental problems and the bad breath that occurs as a result. But in the short term, you can chew sugarless gum and drink water to stimulate production of fresh saliva, which works to help keep your mouth from getting stale.

Mouthwash also helps in the short term. Look for those that actually kill bacteria with cetylpyridinium chloride or chlorhexidine in the list of ingredients.

There's no time like the present to improve your dental hygiene — and your breath. After masks become a thing of the past, you'll be able to greet your no-longer-socially distant family and friends with fresh confidence.