The Real Reason Your Breath Smells When You Wear A Mask

If you've noticed your breath smells when you wear a face mask, you might be inclined to blame the mask, but experts say it's your dental hygiene that's to blame. Face masks cause you to rebreathe your own exhaled air, forcing you to smell your own breath. If you have bad breath, this can make wearing masks especially unpleasant.

"When the nose and mouth are trapped in the same small recycled airspace, it is much easier to smell and sense your own bad breath. You are forced to inhale the breath you exhaled," Dr. Melissa Santilli, a dentist in Cross Roads, Texas, told U.S. News & World Report. "This creates a unique opportunity for each individual to experience their breath from a third-person perspective."

While there are several reasons why your breath could smell, poor dental hygiene is the most common cause. When food gets stuck in your gums and teeth, it can cause bacteria to build up and emit a foul odor. This is why it's important to brush twice daily, floss your teeth, and use mouthwash.

Eating certain foods like garlic, onions, or candy can also cause your breath to smell more than usual. You can remedy this by brushing your teeth or chewing gum, but sometimes it just might take some time for the food to fully leave your system. Other causes of bad breath include drinking alcohol, chewing tobacco, dry mouth, having allergies, and taking certain medications.

Your 'mask breath' could be caused by underlying medical conditions

While most causes of bad breath are harmless and only require a simple fix, others are much more serious. For some people, bad breath could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

Sweet or fruity-smelling breath could be an early sign of diabetic ketoacidosis or type 1 diabetes, according to CNN. Conversely, people with chronic kidney failure can have breath that emits a fishy, urine-like, or ammonia-like odor. Bad breath is also a sign of liver disease. Fetor hepaticus, or a strong, musty odor, is a common symptom of people who have severe liver disease.

No matter what is causing your bad breath, taking off your mask will not fix it. Face masks can only amplify your bad breath, not cause it. Practicing good oral hygiene and eating less pungent foods should resolve most cases of bad breath. If you have breath that smells particularly sweet or fishy, call your doctor to schedule an appointment.