Wearing a mask, washing hands, and keeping a physical distance from others outside your home are all key factors in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But although most people have adjusted well to wearing a face mask, those who must wear one for long periods time are starting to develop a nasty side effect, one dentists are dubbing “mask mouth”.
Now that dentists are scheduling patients again, many are seeing a new oral hygiene problem that stems from wearing a mask all day. People are coming in with inflamed gums, tooth decay, bad breath, and receding gum lines. Most people breathe through their mouths while wearing a face mask which leads to a dry mouth and an increase in harmful bacteria. Saliva in our mouth helps fight bad bacteria and keep teeth clean while neutralizing acids that can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.
People tend to drink less water throughout the day if they are wearing a mask but are also drinking more coffee and alcohol while under the everyday stress of living through a pandemic. Dehydration can worsen periodontal disease and lead to stinky breath that is a sign of underlying issues with a buildup of bacteria.
In addition to safely visiting your dentist for a cleaning, people can help prevent “mask mouth” by cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, drinking more water, using a humidifier at home to moisten the air, brushing thoroughly twice a day and rinsing with an alcohol-free mouthwash. A tongue-scraper may help to prevent bad breath from bacteria. Smoking also contributes to dental problems and sour breath. If possible, try to breathe through your nose under your mask to prevent the mouth from becoming dry.
Keeping your mouth healthy and clean is not only important for appearance and function, but gum disease is also associated with an increased risk for other health problems like stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and even dementia. According to the National Health Service, intense gum inflammation may slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time.
Learn more about keeping your teeth and gums healthy in older age by following this link Harvard Health.