Complaints about wearing a face mask are common and frequent.
Now many dentists believe that a new issue related to dental health has surfaced. It has been aptly named “Mask Mouth.”
Wearing a mask for several hours each day may cause dry mouth, which in turn can lead to bad breath, and possibly cavities and gum disease. Mouth breathing dries the tissue of the mouth, decreases saliva and increases the build-up of bacteria. Many people breathe through their mouths instead of their noses when they wear face masks.
Saliva helps to protect the teeth and prevents cavities. Less saliva means more risk for cavities.
Left untreated, gum disease (periodontal disease) can eventually result in cardiovascular problems such as stroke and heart attack.
An impromptu poll of friends and colleagues found that some actually did breathe through their mouths while wearing face masks. They mentioned that both their mouth and throat often felt dry.
The doctors at Pi Dental Center recommend that patients continue to wear masks but take the following measures:
- Brush regularly with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily.
- Drink water frequently. Use a straw so that you don’t have to remove your mask to do so. Set a goal to drink at least 8 cups of water each day.
- Avoid beverages that can dehydrate, such as coffee and alcohol. Use only alcohol-free dental mouth rinses.
- To help ensure that your teeth remain healthy, limit sugary foods.
- Schedule your regular dental hygiene and check-up visit.
- Awareness is important. Be aware of how you are breathing. If you find that you breathe through your mouth while wearing a mask, remind yourself to breathe through your nose.
In addition to dental health problems caused from wearing a face mask, there has been an increase in dental problems due to the shutdown of dental offices.
Dr. Wolfinger states, “I have seen an increase in problems related to poor oral hygiene recently, which I attribute mainly to the fact that many patients have missed their normally scheduled oral hygiene and exam visits as a result of the government shutdown.”
Dolly Kituskie, a dental hygienist at Pi Dental Center has heard many of her patients complain about wearing masks, saying they are itchy and uncomfortable. She has also noticed that some of her patients’ home care has been poor during quarantine. She contributes this lax home care to “increased stress about the whole situation. They are not doing their home care as often or as well.”
Dr. Slauch said, “Wearing a face mask is essential as our society navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. Although our lives are upside down at the moment, keep in mind that routine dental hygiene and maintenance should never be ignored.”
While there is no scientific research that correlates mask wearing to dental decay/gum disease, dentists have identified the phenomenon. What is important is to continue to practice good oral hygiene.
Pi Dental Center advocates wearing a face mask in public. Continue to practice rigorous oral hygiene, drink plenty of fluids and see your dentist regularly. We have implemented a wide array of protocols to provide a safe environment for our patients and staff. If you are due for routine dental care or are in need of a dental visit, please call our office at 215-646-6334.
Further reading: The Truth Behind the Mask