“Mask Mouth” Sparks Dental Concerns
It’s been almost a full year since COVID-19 first appeared in the United States, and in that time life behind a mask has become the “new normal” for the vast majority of people both in the United States and abroad. While many of us wait to receive our vaccination, it is still important to maintain proper social distancing and continue to wear in any and all public spaces. However, there are other things that need to be assessed in the meantime, and unfortunately one issue has become very apparent to both the American Dental Association and us, here at Overland Park Dentistry.
As reported in various media outlets, in addition to the heath complications related to the COVID-19 outbreak, many dentists both in the U.S. and U.K. have begun reporting a startling rise in the number of oral health issues among their patients. Obviously, it’s no coincidence that this steady increase was first noticed when a nationwide mask mandate was first requested during the past year, and its certainly no coincidence that this number is continuing to increase to this day! The practice of wearing a mask in public may help contain the spread of the virus, but alas these same masks are indeed the cause of this dilemma now known as “Mask Mouth.” In the following sections, we will elaborate on what causes face masks to affect your oral health, what signs and symptoms to watch out for, and finally what you can do to prevent mask mouth from become a problem for you!
Mask Mouth: Causes
Sure, a term like “Mask Mouth” might sound a bit little silly at first, but the affects of mask mouth are certainly nothing to snicker at! Obviously tooth decay and periodontal disease are two of the most potentially serious oral health issues that can affect a person, and if left untreated, mask mouth can lead to such conditions. Surprisingly, the key triggers for causing mask mouth are relatively mundane and seeming easy to avoid. Keep in mind however, sometimes it’s the most basic things that are easiest to overlook!
Learn more about How Oral Bacteria Can Impact Your Pretty Smile
Dry mouth or Xerostomia, is perhaps the most basic trigger for mask mouth. Xerostomia occurs when your salivary glands fail to produce necessary amount of saliva to keep your mouth moist and might be indicative of or result in dehydration. Because saliva helps protect teeth from harmful bacteria, the lack of saliva will create a much more fertile breading ground for bacteria, thus causing the gums to become infected and the teeth to decay.
When a person breathes naturally, they are generally taking slow controlled breaths using their diaphragm. However, recent studies have shown that when wearing a facemask, many people tend to take accelerated shallow breaths, thereby reducing the saliva in their mouth.
Poor Air Quality:
When you have a mask constricting your breathing zone, the concentrated carbon dioxide forces you to reuse and recycle the air that you breathe. While the recycled carbon dioxide is not particularly harmful, it will heighten the level of acidic buildup within your body, ultimately putting you at a much greater risk of developing tooth decay and other health issues.
Mask Mouth: Signs and Symptoms
Perhaps one of the most common complaints with regards to wearing a mask, is the fact that many people find themselves bothered by smell of their own breath. Indeed halitosis (or bad breath) is a frustrating problem; however, this also might be a sign that your mask is affecting your oral health. In this situation we would highly encourage you to reevaluate your both your oral hygiene and dietary habits. Remember, wearing a facemask can exasperate all kinds of inner-oral issues, no matter how small!
Related Article: How to Stop Bad Breath: It’s a Stinky Situation
Chronic Dry Mouth:
As mentioned in the previous section, dry mouth is a telltale sign that your facemask could be having an adverse effect on your oral health. If you find your mouth is feeling dry on a consistent basis, you ARE in greater jeopardy of developing additional problems and therefore should address this issue right away!
As a progressive infection within the gumline, gum disease typically begins with inflammation. If your gums are dark pink, tender, or have a tendency to bleed, then you have likely developed gingivitis. Stemming the excess bacteria, plaque will slowly begin to build up in your mouth until it reaches the gum tissue. Once the gum tissue has become infected you will experience swollen and bleeding gums, which are hallmark signs of gingivitis. If the condition is left untreated however, the infection will eventually progress into full blown gum disease.
Related Article: Dental Health Awareness: Gum Disease and Heart Disease
Mask Mouth: Solutions
Washing or Replacing Masks:
To put it simply, a dirty mask makes a dirty mouth. By repeatedly using the same mask over and over, you are giving bacteria a place to survive and thrive! We recommend washing and rotating several cloth masks at a time, or simply throwing away disposable masks after each use.
Sure, it can be easy to forget sometimes, but we cannot stress enough how necessary it is to drink plenty of water while using a mask for a prolonged period. Obviously, water does the body good in more ways than one, so don’t deprive yourself!
Proper Oral Hygiene:
With facemasks continuing to be required for daily use, proper oral hygiene is now more important than ever. So please take the time to reassess your daily hygiene habits. While taking a few extra minutes twice a day to thoroughly brush and floss your teeth might not seem like it makes much of a difference, believe us … IT REALLY DOES! Also keep in mind that by brushing between meals, you are really doing your teeth a huge favor. Much like taking a refreshing shower after work, a mid-day brushing really helps rejuvenate your smile AND freshen your breath.
Related Article: Oral Health and Hygiene: Keep Your Immune System Strong
This might be more of a suggestion, rather than an actual solution, if dry mouth and bad breath are really proving to be a problem for you then perhaps you should consider altering your diet. While it doesn’t have to be permanent, temporary dietary changes could be a key factor in reducing these issues. Commonly used substances such as caffeine or alcohol for instance, both expedite the rate of dehydration, thus worsening the affects of mask mouth. By limiting your consumption of sugary, alcoholic, acetic, caffeinated, or tobacco-based products, you can diminish such concerns in a major way.
Routine Dental Exams:
In a world where masks are mandatory, it’s imperative for the health and future of your smile that you continue to receive dental exams every 6 months. By giving Dr. Kimes and the staff at Overland Park Dentistry the chance to assess your current oral health and make note of any changes or concerns.
Related Article: Dental Safety: Is it Safe to Visit the Dentist?
Let’s Flatten the Curve!
Obviously, wearing a mask can be a hassle, and we realize that the issues caused by mask mouth are an inconvenience; however, right now we’renot advocating that you stop wearing a mask (when mandated)!
As we have been told, wearing a face mask isimportant for the health and safety of both you and the public.
While mask mouth is legitimate health concern, and we considered it our obligation to make you aware of this issue, please remember that by attending routine dental checkups and adhering to solutions and guidelines mentioned above, mask mouth can be successfully prevented. If you have any concerns about mask mouth or are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, please contact our offices.
From all of us here at Overland Dentistry stay safe and Keep smiling!
Local dentist, Dr. Charles R. Kimes, DDS, and his team at Overland Park Dentistry look forward to having the opportunity to care for you and your family with preventative, restorative or cosmetic dentistry. To schedule your dental appointment with your Overland Park Dentist, contact us at our south Overland Park office at (913) 647-8700 or our north Overland Park office at (913) 341-2380.