Last updated 02/16/2021
Have you caught a whiff of your own breath lately under your mask? It is common to eat a garlic or onion dish and later have bad breath.
But now since we are wearing a mask, still important prevention with the spread, it is under our nose more.
Bacteria and Our Tongue
Our tongue is the beginning of our digestive system. It should appear pinkish with a light coating. It is a muscular organ.
Papillae give the tongue its bumpy texture. Their tufts composed of keratin when stretched out may look and feel hairy. These hairs can be stained from the food we eat, medicine we take and nicotine if we smoke. The tongue houses a lot of bacteria.
Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis.
If your tongue has a coating of what looks like cream cheese this is a sign. This film is bacteria that have built up causing halitosis (aka bad breath).
As our digestive system breaks down food in our mouth particles that gather around teeth can increase bacteria resulting in that foul smell.
What is Mask Mouth?
Yes, mask mouth is now a thing. Wearing a mask regularly and for extended periods of time (health care professionals) can lead to bad breath. Add to this the increased risk of cavities, tooth decay and inflamed gums. This brings the importance of practicing good oral hygiene.
We may be more inclined to breathe through our mouth since the mask covers the nose. This can bring on dry mouth making it easier for bacteria to thrive which will cause bad breath.
By breathing through the mouth we dry out all saliva. This is produced to help with maintaining acids, raising the pH in our mouth and protecting against bad bacteria.
Because bacteria love a dry environment, the drier the mouth the more chance for mask mouth. But we still must wear a mask to stop the spread. (Please refer to the CDC & WHO websites for current updates).
How to Prevent Dry Mouth
There is a condition called xerostomia (dry mouth) this may also cause bad breath. This is a common condition where your salivary glands aren’t providing your mouth enough saliva. If you have noticed this you may consult your doctor if it is bothersome.
The mask may make this difficult but it is important to stay hydrated and not contribute to dry mouth. Take the time to sneak a couple sips in (social distancing) or eat snacks that are hydrating.
Limit caffeine beverages while in the office. Consuming sugar and acidic foods and beverages could feed the bacteria.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to catch up with your dental visits. Remember things were closed earlier in the year. As with all businesses extra precautions have been put in place. Check with your dental team.
Could you Have Mask Mouth?
The longer you wear your mask the more likely you are of having mask mouth. It’s been more noticeable to those working now wearing their mask during their day. The more time you spend wearing your mask you are more susceptible.
Other Ways to Prevent Mask Mouth
Clean your mask. We know by now that wearing a face mask can help stop the spread. It can be a little different breathing and talking. Our mouth may not handle these things as well.
We are rebreathing our own expelled air in higher amounts than usual this can result in the bad bacteria building up.
You should be doing this already, but just a reminder, don’t forget to use a clean mask. If a disposable please cut ear loops for animal safety before tossing disposable in trash.
A clean mask is essential (clean hands before placing on) because our breathing inside the mask can cause oral bacteria to become embedded in the fabric which can also increase the bacteria build up in the mouth during inhaling.
Mask should be washed or replaced after each use. It’s good to have spares handy to switch out. The mask is not effective when wet or damp.
Really, do you want to put a dirty mask next to your face? (Not as bad as the woman picking up dog poop with it but come on).
Maintain good oral health. Practice good oral hygiene habits by brushing and flossing at least twice a day. Not flossing leaves hard to reach bacteria between your teeth.
Fluoride in toothpaste and anti-bacterial mouthwash can also help fight against bad bacteria. Fluoride can help re-mineralize enamel. Bad bacteria that thrive in the mouth can cause demineralization. This weakens the enamel, increases sensitivity, making it easier for acid, bacteria and toxins to travel deeper into the teeth and present cavities or decay. Oral rinses aimed at dry mouth will help with adding moisture.
Avoid these drinks. Drink your water to stay hydrated. Avoid sugar and caffeine beverages that only add to your dry mouth; such as coffee and sodas. They are dehydrating and only increase your chances for mask mouth.
You don’t have to cut your morning cup but you may want to rinse with water before putting on your mask (better yet brush or use your tongue scraper). Coffee can stick around on the tongue for a while, further dehydrating and causing bad breath.
Time for a mask break. When you are alone (in your car) or where social distancing is possible these situations allow you to remove the mask. The good and bad bacteria are able to reset. Drink your water.
Travel size toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash are great to pack on the go to freshen up. Mints can be used for a quick fix but can also leave a dry mouth.
When to see a Doctor about your Tongue
Other changes to be aware of:
- Tongue has a change in color
- Signs of inflammation
- Swollen tongue
- Hairy growth on the tongue
- Appearance of a red or white patch
- Abnormal mass or bumps
- A coating that cannot be scrapped off
- Feeling of pain and burning sensation of the tongue
- Soreness on the tongue
- Change in tongue size and texture
Practicing good oral care as well as cleaning your tongue will help keep mask mouth away.
Have you noticed mask mouth?
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Header Photo female wearing a surgical mask by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels