While wearing a face mask is important to keep us safe from COVID-19, new medical and oral health issues are becoming apparent from the long period of time that many of us are having to wear them.
You also may have now noticed the smell of your own breath as well as other oral health issues.
Face masks are saving us from COVID-19
Every time we say a single phrase, we release hundreds of respiratory droplets that can be transmitted several feet away. These tiny droplets are almost impossible to track and therefore just as difficult to tell who is infected or not.
The face mask will protect and help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 by stopping the droplets from being transmitted. For this very reason, the CDC recommends everyone to use them for protection.
What is Mask Mouth
One emerging dental concern is an oral health issue called Mask Mouth. By some estimations, almost 50% of the dental patients being seen today are experiencing signs of Mask Mouth. Patients that have had a history of healthy teeth and gums are now showing problems, but they are not due to poor dental hygiene. Instead they are a direct result of mask wearing.
When you wear a face mask it increases the dryness in your mouth. This is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and viruses to grow. Your body produces saliva to create a protective barrier. There are also antimicrobial components that are produced to fight the bacteria. Saliva also plays an important part in preventing viruses from entering directly into our bodies.
What is the actual impact of using face masks on our oral health?
That same protective equipment that we are using to prevent contact with COVID-19 is directly creating negative implications to our health.
Increase of Tooth Decay
When the mouth becomes dry because of wearing the face masks, the saliva produced to flush food particles in our teeth is decreased. Sugar helps bacterial to thrive which and with the food particles not being removed you see tooth decay.
When your body’s immune system sees increases in bacteria and viruses it will create inflammation of the gums. This could be a signal that there are too many bacteria in our mouth that is attacking your gums. This can eventually lead to periodontal disease.
Prolonged dryness in the mouth is the perfect environment for odor-causing bacteria to grow. This is then called Halitosis or Bad Breath. Many patients say that they notice a change in the breath when they have worn a face mask for long periods of time.
Once you have Gum Disease it is an irreversible dental condition and will require care for the rest of your life. This will slowly damage your gums and bone structure in your mouth. Many do not see any symptoms until they begin having receding and inflamed gums.
Changes in how you drink and breathing behaviors
Trying to keep hydrated and drinking water while also wearing a mask can be a difficult compromise. It is just another reason to forget to keep drinking fluids all day long.
The mask also creates issues in which people will breathe through their mouths to improve inhalation capacity. Doing so heightens dry mouth and which in turn leads to various dental conditions. It is recommended that you continue breathing through your nose, continue drinking water and maintain oral hygiene to decrease dry mouth and the dental problems that can develop.
How your dentist can assist with preventing dental problems during a pandemic
Here are some simple steps to stay on top of your oral hygiene during a pandemic:
- Keep your regularly scheduled dental cleanings to break down the plaque buildup on your teeth to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.
- Dental treatments can be implemented to prevent the bacteria from spreading if gum disease has begun.
- Having damage teeth filled and restoration treatments maintained.