I don’t want to waste our pediatric dentist’s time, but I’m kind of at a loss for what to do. I’ve had no choice but to keep my six-year-old son in private daycare despite the pandemic. I’m a single mom and I have to work. The lady he stays with is very diligent about sanitation and requires that all the kids wear facemasks, so my son has his on for several hours per day. Shortly after she started her mask policy, my son started complaining about a bad smell in his mask. I thought it was the mask at first and we tried a few different kinds but nothing helped. Eventually, I look a look in his mouth and, although I don’t see anything wrong, his breath really does smell bad after he’s been wearing the mask. Is this worth a visit to the pediatric dentist or should I just set him up with mouthwash or something?
Generally speaking, masks don’t cause bad breath, clinically referred to as halitosis. However, now that people are wearing facemasks, they’re becoming more aware of what their breath already smells like.
Common causes of mask breath in people of any age include:
- Failure to brush and floss adequately.
- Eating foods like onions and garlic that create an intrinsic odor.
- The development of oral issues such as cavities, gum disease, and infections.
- Dry mouth, otherwise known as xerostomia, is typically seen in older people, but can affect people of any age. Without adequate saliva, food doesn’t get rinsed away, the mouth becomes more acidic, and issues like gum disease and cavities are more common.
- Other health conditions like allergies, acid reflux, and certain cancers.
All that said, the vast majority of cases—perhaps as much as 90%—relate to oral hygiene, especially when referring to such a young person.
Sometimes people switch to mouth breathing while wearing a mask too
Although masks do not obstruct oxygen, sometimes people switch over to breathing through their mouth rather than their nose simply because the mask feels unnatural. This can lead to dry mouth too, which, again, can contribute to bad breath.
Start by addressing hygiene
If your son isn’t expressing any discomfort and you don’t see any signs of cavities or infections, start by making sure he’s brushing thoroughly at least twice per day and flossing. He may need some pointers or help. For now, you may want to hold off on using any kind of mouthwash. The alcohol-based kind can dry out tissues and any variety may just mask the scent rather than address the root cause. You can also watch how he’s breathing while wearing the mask—if you see the mask bellowing inward, he’s probably breathing through his mouth and might need some coaching and reminders to focus on nose breathing.
If better cleaning doesn’t solve it, visit the pediatric dentist
Your dentist will be able to help you determine if your son is still missing spots or if there’s another underlying cause that needs to be addressed. If you’re already established with a pediatric dentist, have him go where he’s already comfortable. However, you can also have him see your family dentist as well.
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Raymond Bolt, an Auburn family dentist offering comprehensive care for children and adults.