Smell something funky as you are wearing your face mask? Sorry to break it to you, but you might just have bad breath.
But no one has ever complained about your breath smelling bad before, you say? Well, it's really not because of the mask that you wear, and you may just have really polite friends.
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.
1. Breathe less through your mouth
You may be unconsciously using your mouth to breathe more when you wear a mask as your nose Is covered. This happens too if you have a blocked or stuffy nose.
This results in a drier mouth, which naturally makes your breath more foul smelling.
2. Talk less and drink more water
Talking can dry out the mouth as less saliva remains in the mouth. According to Dr Koh, Saliva has a 'washing' effect and hence those who talk more are more likely to have bad breath.
Another way to solve the dry mouth issue is to drink more water and keep your mouth adequately hydrated.
3. Watch your diet
Other than naturally pungent food, other types of food you consume can be the cause of your bad breath.
These include low or no carbohydrate diets as well as high protein diets.
Both result in the body breaking down fat for energy instead of carbs, releasing chemicals that smell.
4. Clean your tongue and the rest of your mouth
Basic oral hygiene is essential to have fresh-smelling breath. Aside from brushing your teeth, you should regularly floss.
Scraping your tongue can also significantly reduce any bad odour as most bacteria nestles itself on the tongue, especially the back. It also doesn't hurt to regularly use an anti-bacterial mouthwash.
5. Pop a mint to mask any smell
This may be the most straightforward solution. Have a box of mints always handy to freshen your breath whenever something funky wafts up to your nose.
ALSO READ: How to wear a disposable face mask the right way and make it fit better
For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.