There are many things we never thought we would have to deal with in this lifetime, and then 2020 happened. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world on its side, creating panic and difficulties for most Americans. Regardless of how you feel about wearing a mask, you have most likely had to wear one this year. While mask-wearing may be required in many places, it is essential that you understand how wearing a mask can contribute to unwanted and severe oral health issues.
“Mask mouth” is a new term that has been associated with oral health issues that dentists are reporting in their patients across the United States. Mask mouth is caused by covering the mouth for hours a day, and people who have always shown exemplary oral health are presenting with issues like tooth decay, gum recession, and severe bad breath.
The three most common concerns that dentists link to “mask mouth” are mouth breathing, dehydration, and dry mouth. All of these are direct results of having the mouth covered for extended periods of time. The body was designed to inhale most of its oxygen through the nose. Breathing in through the nose helps to prevent a decrease in saliva production, which can lead to dry mouth. When the mouth is dry and saliva production is low, bacteria have a hay-day inside the mouth. They will multiply in huge quantities and begin to grow along the gum line. This causes rapid tooth decay. The body is also dependent on adequate hydration. When the mouth is covered continuously by a mask or face-covering, people are not drinking enough water. Dehydration can lead to serious overall health problems, and it can contribute to severe oral health issues.
So, what can you do about it? Try this:
- Take your mask off as often as possible. If you work somewhere that requires a mask, step outside frequently to take the mask off. Breathing in fresh air will help you feel better and allow you to breathe through your nose.
- Chew sugar-free gum throughout the day. This will help keep your mouth moist and prevent dry mouth.
- Drink water with a purpose. Set a timer on your phone or watch to remind you to drink water every 15 minutes. Make it a goal to drink at least 8 oz of water every hour.
- Brush your teeth as soon as you remove your mouth. You will want to brush your teeth frequently to help remove bacterial growth from your teeth and gum lines.
At Peninsula Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, we are here to help you avoid “mask mouth.” If you want more information, have questions, or want to schedule a routine cleaning, please contact our practice today. We are here to make sure you maintain a healthy smile.