A face mask is the new accessory that you cannot step outside without wearing. The danger of COVID-19 has made wearing masks mandatory for everyone to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Although face masks are a necessity during these testing times, they are being held responsible for increasing dental health problems. Dental issues like bad breath, receding gum lines, ulcers, gingivitis, and decaying teeth are being linked to face masks. In fact, doctors have coined a new term for it: “mask mouth”.
While masks are doing their job by keeping us safe, it is also taking a toll on our oral health. Let’s discuss some acute side effects of continuously wearing a mask, how to prevent “mask mouth”, and how to take care of our oral hygiene.
Impacts of Wearing a Face Mask on Oral Health
With dental practices slowly opening up, dentists are concerned about a tidal wave of oral hygiene issues from patients, which include:
- Bad breath – Halitosis, or bad breath, is the primary oral health problem associated with face masks. Continuously wearing face masks can dry your mouth and cause bad breath. Odor-causing bacteria present in our mouth can lead to bad breath, and prolonged mouth dryness can worsen it. During the lockdown, coffee and alcohol consumption has increased in many patients. On the other hand, people tend to drink less water while wearing a mask. These can cause dry mouth and ultimately increase the chances of bad breath or mask mouth.
- Tooth decay – Due to face masks, the mouth is usually dry and there is not enough production of saliva to clear out food particles. Bacteria thriving on sugar inside your mouth can start to breed from the food stuck between your teeth and cause tooth decay.
- Gum disease – Mask mouth can lead to an irreversible dental condition of periodontal disease. Generally, saliva neutralizes acids in the mouth. Lack of saliva causes dry mouth, which results in plaque build-up and eventually damages your gums and bone structure in the mouth. There are no early symptoms or pain. It only becomes noticeable when signs like inflamed and receding gums begin to show. Gum disease might also lead to strokes and an increased risk of heart attacks.
- Ulcers – Prolonged face mask usage creates a moist environment around the skin of your mouth, which is perfect for bacteria to grow. This overgrowth of bacteria can cause cracking and ulcers at the corner of your mouth.
Ways to Present “Mask Mouth"
In this pandemic, you can’t afford to take any risks, until wearing a mask is no longer a requisite. Patients are often reporting to doctors after the onset of dental problems. For example, a person reporting to the doctor with bad breath might already have periodontal disease. Therefore, here are ways to keep “mask mouth” at bay and protect your oral health.
- Maintain basic oral hygiene by brushing your teeth, tongue, and sides of your cheeks at least twice a day. Flossing once a day is also recommended.
- Use mouthwash containing chlorhexidine once a day to prevent plaque formation
- Drink more water to stimulate the production of saliva and reduce the chances of dry mouth
- Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid smoking
- Ensure that you wear your mask correctly and clean it thoroughly
- Avoid breathing from your mouth and take short breaks to reduce mask usage
- Dentists should educate their patients about mask mouth and its varied side effects
Face masks are necessary to keep yourself safe and prevent the virus from spreading. During this pandemic, don’t ignore your oral health. Get in touch with your dentist in West Des Moines, and we will be more than happy to help. Smiles on Hickman has the best dentist in Des Moines for all your dental issues.