News flash: even though your mask may conceal the piece of food in your teeth, it doesn’t cover up your stank breath.

Celebrity dentist Dr. Jennifer Jablow knows a thing or two about what’s going on in your mouth. Having worked between the gums of everyone from models to music artists, Dr. Jablow can confirm that mask-wearing not only doesn’t disguise bad breath but in fact can have a negative effect on dental health.

“Masks are necessary, but can cause bad breath, gingivitis, and possibly cavities. This is because we tend to breathe through our mouths while wearing masks, and tend to hydrate less. We get a dry mouth environment and less salivary flow, which is a natural protection to wash away bacteria and keep the mouth pH at an optimal level. When the mouth is dry it becomes more acidic, which is a perfect environment for plaque and bacteria. This can lead to stinky breath.”

Since we’re keeping our masks strapped on for the foreseeable future, it’s important to keep up with dental health in order to avoid bad breath and other dental health issues. Read on to discover the answers to ridding your mouth of stinky breath long-term, no mints or gum needed.

What causes bad breath?

There are many common causes that can ultimately result in bad breath: dry mouth from medications or anxiety, gum disease, acid reflux, certain foods, poor hygiene, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sinus and dental infections, and more.

“The bad smell comes from bacteria that live in your mouth, or rather, their gaseous waste products – these can include sulfur, which gives off a distinctive rotten-egg aroma,” says Dr. Jablow. “Bacteria thrive in anaerobic, or low-oxygen, environments.” Though some people have extremely bad breath, and others don’t experience it at all, any bad breath will be exacerbated by the factors listed above. And masks, as mentioned before, now play a role as well.

What are the best methods for combating bad breath?

The major key to fresh breath? Diligent home care. There are plenty of tools and technologies on the market to make dental care easier and more effective.

1. pH-balanced Toothpaste

Believe it or not, your toothpaste has a pH balance and this balance has a huge effect on your tooth enamel. A healthy mouth needs a neutral pH level in order to stay healthy. Dr. Jablow suggests looking for specific ingredients when selecting a pH-balanced toothpaste: zinc ions kill bad breath at its source, and the chemical compound Xylitol works to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

Buy here: Intelliwhite Carbon Power Clean Toothpaste ($20)

2. Water Floss

Water floss is much more efficient and effective than string floss at getting into the nooks and crannies of your mouth. “Drop a capful of peroxide in its tank,” says Dr. Jablow. “The oxygen from the peroxide will kill the bacteria under the gumline that causes inflammation.” This is a far better option than using a mouthwash with alcohol to combat bad breath and flush out the mouth: “Alcohol dries out the mouth and makes bad breath come back worse, and the acidic mouth can get more cavities.”

Buy here: Waterpik ($70)

3. Tongue Scrapers

Though they were trending on TikTok for a while—since TikTok is such a hub for dental advice—tongue scrapers can actually help your dental health. However, you need to make sure you’re hitting all the other important aspects of a dental care routine: “Tongue scrapers help as an add on to your home care, but they only work if the rest of your routine is adequate.”

Buy here: MasterMedi Tongue Scraper ($9)

4. Probiotics

As someone who is obsessed with vitamins and any other type of hippie holistic wellness, I’ve been taking probiotics for years. However, I had no idea that they can actually improve symptoms of bad breath. By increasing the amount of good bacteria in your gut, the amount of bad bacteria is lowered not only in your GI tract, but in your mouth as well. Less bad bacteria = healthier teeth, tongue, and gums, and more fresh breath.

Buy here: Seed Daily Synbiotic ($49)

5. Food + Drink

What you’re eating and drinking can actually play a huge role towards bad breath. “Acidic sodas, iced teas, and sports drinks contribute to dental problems,” says Dr. Jablow. Stay hydrated is the major key to success. Dr. Jablow recommends replacing sugary beverages with higher pH waters, like Essentia or Smart Water Alkaline. When it comes to snacking, trade out chips or candy for some crunchy fresh fruits and veggies, such as apples, pears, carrots and celery. These treats help to produce saliva, which cleans out the odor-producing bacteria in your mouth.

6. Dental Care

Finally, and most importantly, stay brushing your teeth twice a day. This is the single most effective way to kill bacteria in your mouth. And don’t forget to get your floss on – flossing fights bacteria hiding in your gums, and controls plaque between the teeth. See your dentist for a professional cleaning twice a year, and you’re on your way to the cleanest mouth you’ll ever have.

With these tips, you can mask up and rest easy knowing your dental health is top-notch. Bad breath, begone!

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