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Tips from a dentist to combat ‘mask mouth’

Breath not smelling so fresh? Be mindful of what you're eating, drinking

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Most of us have accepted the fact that some form of face coverings will be a part of our daily routine for the foreseeable future. But have you noticed your breath may not smell so fresh behind that mask?

Well, you’re not alone. “Mask mouth” is a real thing.

With people wearing masks to stop the spread of coronavirus, dentists are hearing about an uptick in bad breath. You brush, you floss, but sometimes, that’s just not enough. And even mouthwash may not do the trick.

Being mindful of what you eat and drink, however, can make a difference.

“Everybody’s chemistry is different,” dentist Dr. Melissa Santilli said. “So, what you take into your body does reflect in other ways. It reflects your saliva concentration -- and different things in your saliva -- the minerals that you have. So, the best thing to do is whatever you are eating, drinking -- make sure to clean your whole mouth, not just your teeth, but also your tongue. (It’s to) make sure you reduce all that bacteria on any surfaces in your mouth.”

Medications and medical conditions can also complicate bad breath behind the mask. There are other things you can do to mitigate bad breath behind the mask.

“If you can, and you feel safe enough to go to the dentist, I would definitely go to the dentist first to get the professional cleaning,” Santilli said. “If you can’t, then kind of expand what you are doing at home. Not just the brushing and flossing, but the mouth rinse.

“And then, also, do some more creative things to help extract some of that bacteria out of your mouth,” Santilli continued. “One of the things that I like to tell people is to rinse with coconut oil. Because oil and water don’t mix, and oil can pull some more stuff out that water-based solution products cannot.”

Another thing Santilli suggests is chewing sugar-free gum with xylitol. And since xylitol is toxic to pets you do want to make sure it’s kept away from them.

“I like xylitol because it kills bacteria and it doesn’t cause cavities, so you’re not creating a problem by chewing it,” Santilli said. “And it creates more saliva -- so you are helping your body fight infection and fight bacteria.”

Santilli adds brushing more often won’t hurt either.


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