60 Percent of People Are More Aware of This Gross Habit Thanks to COVID

New research shows that the pandemic has brought this bad hygiene habit to light.

We've all learned a lot about ourselves amid the coronavirus pandemic. From the lengths we're willing to go to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe to all that self-reflection we've had time for in quarantine, 2020 definitely shined a new light on some of our more favorable qualities and perhaps the ones we need to work on, too. And, according to a new survey, there's one gross habit that nearly 60 percent of people are just realizing about themselves thanks to COVID: their bad breath.

According to a survey conducted by OnePoll and the natural toothpaste company Dr. Squatch, 57 percent of the 3,000 Americans polled said that the coronavirus pandemic has made them more aware of their own bad breath because they could smell it when wearing a face mask.

More than half—52 percent—of respondents admitted to being concerned about their bad breath because they are worried about being perceived as "dirty," but that seemingly isn't motivating them to start brushing and flossing more: 35 percent of respondents said they don't actually brush their teeth twice a day, and a surprising 10 percent admitted to not even brushing once a day.

"Even though people feel strongly that brushing their teeth is an important part of their daily lives, it's clear that there's major room for improvement in the experience," a spokesperson from Dr. Squatch said in a statement.

woman, toothbrush, toothpaste, scrub, closeup, horizontal, background

Unfortunately, bad breath is not just an issue when it comes to self-esteem, either—it's a serious concern amid the coronavirus pandemic. Shervin Molayem, DDS, an oral dentist surgeon in Beverly Hills, recently told an NBC News affiliate that there is a connection between bad oral hygiene and the coronavirus—which he's set to publish research on in the Journal of the California Dental Association in October.

Molayem explained that increased levels of a protein called IL-6 in the body can be caused by bacteria from dirty teeth. And elevated levels of IL-6 raise one's risk of dying from the virus. A July study from George Washington University found that high IL-6 levels were observed in "patients requiring ICU admission, in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, and in non-survivors."

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On the plus side, it's very easy to combat both your bad breath and reduce your COVID-19 death risk in one fell swoop. While mouthwash can't treat COVID-19 or protect you from catching the virus, it may help to reduce the viral load should you become infected. Just 30 seconds of gargling with mouthwash can keep your mouth fresh and can actually lower the amount of coronavirus in your body, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. And for the habits to avoid amid the pandemic, check out This Is How High Your COVID Risk Is Based on Your Everyday Behavior.

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