Let's face it, whether we agree or not, face masks are going to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future. Mask Mouth is a serious threat to our oral health.
There are many contradicting arguments about the effectiveness of face masks, as to whether they offer any help in preventing the transmission of certain sized particles.
However, as masks have become a part of our lives, there is a new situation we all need to take into consideration:
‘One emerging dental concern is an oral health issue called mask mouth. By some estimates, almost 50% of the dental patients being seen today are experiencing signs of mask mouth, which is a direct result of mask-wearing. When you wear a face mask it increases the dryness in your mouth.’ As stated by The Family Dental Centre.
“Mask mouth” is spreading like wildfire and dentists are warning that it could have serious consequences to the health of everyone wearing a face mask for extended periods of time.
“Gum disease, or periodontal disease, has the potential of leading to strokes and an increased risk of heart attacks,” warns Marc Sclafani, a dentist, and co-founder of One Manhattan Dental.
Wearing a mask on a regular basis is causing many to experience severe mouth inflammation, the complications of which can be extremely severe.
“We’re seeing inflammation in people’s gums who have been healthy forever, and cavities in people who have never had them before,” adds Rob Ramondi, another dentist and One Manhattan Dental co-founder.
According to Ramondi, roughly half of his patients are suffering from health problems due to wearing a mask.
“About 50 percent of our patients are being impacted by this, so we decided to name it ‘mask mouth’.
Wearing a face covering breeds bacteria in front of the mouth and nose, where pathogens flourish in a warm, moist environment. These pathogens then enter the mouth and body, creating a variety of illnesses.
Another problem is mouth dryness, as people who wear a mask tend to breathe through the mouth while it is on rather than through the nose.
“People tend to breathe through their mouth instead of through their nose while wearing a mask,” Sclafani says.
“The mouth breathing is causing the dry mouth, which leads to a decrease in saliva – and saliva is what fights the bacteria and cleanses your teeth.”
The human respiratory system was not designed to be masked
It is simply not healthy to block one’s breathing passages with fabric or plastic. There are further concerns about non-homemade mask materials - what else are we breathing in?
“Patients are coming into us like, ‘Wow, my breath smells, I need a cleaning.’ But when you smell the bad breath, you either already have periodontal disease or you have a lot of bacteria that’s sitting on your tongue because of dry mouth,” Sclafani further explains.
Sclafani encourages his patients to breathe through the nose whenever possible, but this is difficult for many mask wearers due to lack of oxygen and excess recycled carbon dioxide waste inside the mask.
“Masks are unhealthy,” one Fox News commenter wrote. “It increases the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe in. It is also a germ catcher that absorbs all the germs your hand's touch.”
Mask Mouth: Causes
Sure, a term like “mask mouth '' might sound a bit silly at first, but the effects of mask mouth are certainly nothing to snicker at! Obviously, tooth decay and periodontal disease are two of the most serious potential oral health issues that can affect us, and if left untreated, mask mouth can lead to such conditions. Surprisingly, the key triggers for causing mask mouth are easy to avoid. Keep in mind, however, sometimes it’s the most basic things that are easiest to overlook! We have broken it down into the primary causes of mask mouth and how oral bacteria can impact your smile below.
Dry mouth (xerostomia), is perhaps the most basic trigger for mask mouth. Xerostomia occurs when the salivary glands fail to produce the necessary amount of saliva to keep the mouth moist, which may result in dehydration. Because saliva helps protect teeth from harmful bacteria, the lack of saliva will create a more fertile breeding ground for bacteria, thereby causing the gums to become infected and can lead to tooth decay.
When a person breathes naturally, they are generally taking slow controlled breaths using their diaphragm. However, recent studies have shown that when wearing a face mask, many people tend to take accelerated shallow breaths, thereby reducing the saliva in their mouth.
Poor Air Quality:
When you have a mask constricting your breathing zone, the concentrated carbon dioxide forces you to reuse and recycle the air that you breathe. While the recycled carbon dioxide is not particularly harmful, it will heighten the level of acidic buildup within your body, ultimately putting you at a much greater risk of developing tooth decay and other health issues.
The Signs and Symptoms of Mask Mouth
One of the most common complaints by those wearing a mask is that many people find themselves bothered by the smell of their own breath. Indeed halitosis (bad breath) is a frustrating problem, however, this may also be a sign that your mask is affecting your oral health. In this situation, we would highly encourage you to reevaluate both your oral hygiene and dietary habits. Remember, wearing a face mask can exaggerate all kinds of oral issues, no matter how small! So, how do you stop bad breath?
As mentioned in the previous section, dry mouth is a telltale sign that your face mask could be having an adverse effect on your oral health. If you find your mouth is feeling dry on a consistent basis, you ARE in greater jeopardy of developing additional problems and therefore should address this issue right away!
As a progressive infection within the gum line, gum disease typically begins with inflammation. If your gums are dark pink, tender, or have a tendency to bleed, then you have likely developed gingivitis. Stemming the excess bacteria, plaque will slowly begin to build up in your mouth until it reaches the gum tissue. Once the gum tissue has become infected you will experience swollen and bleeding gums, which are hallmark signs of gingivitis. If the condition is left untreated, the infection will eventually progress into full-blown Periodontal Disease.
Natural Suggestions for Mask Mouth
Those who are forced to wear a mask for long periods can try to drink more water and cut down on caffeine to help protect themselves against mask mouth. Sclafani also recommends that mask wearers use a humidifier in their home or work environment, refrain from smoking, use alcohol-free mouthwash, and scrape their tongue to further decrease their risk of complications.
Washing or Replacing Masks:
To put it simply, a dirty mask makes a dirty mouth. By repeatedly using the same mask over and over, you are giving bacteria a place to survive and thrive! We recommend washing and rotating several cloth masks at a time, or simply throwing away disposable masks after each use.
Sure, it can be easy to forget sometimes, but we cannot stress enough how necessary it is to drink plenty of water while using a mask for a prolonged period. Obviously, water does the body good in more ways than one, so don’t deprive yourself!
Proper Oral Hygiene:
Proper oral hygiene is now more important than ever. So please take the time to reassess your daily hygiene habits. Whereas taking a few extra minutes twice a day to thoroughly brush and floss your teeth might not seem like it makes much of a difference, believe us … IT REALLY DOES! Also keep in mind that by brushing between meals, you are really doing your teeth a huge favor. Much like taking a refreshing shower after work, a mid-day brushing really helps rejuvenate your smile AND freshen your breath.
Freshen Up between Cleanings
Keep a mouthwash on hand. Stay away from chemical and synthetic mouthwashes that are heavily alcohol-based.
Monitor Tooth and Gum Health
With the chances of increased infection, keep an eye on your teeth and gums for sensitivity. If you observe discoloration, pain, bleeding, or tenderness, see your dentist as soon as possible for treatment. Consider seeking out a holistic dentist - there are more and more dentists available who follow holistic principles in their practices.
Remember to Choose Natural
Taking a natural approach is important to consider. Whereas many of the oral health care options contain synthetic and toxic ingredients, the best way to naturally defend the body is with products and formulations that contain natural, non-toxic ingredients. Are the ingredients in grocery store mouthwashes toxic?
Just a few of the toxic ingredients in commercial mouthwash can be found here: The Hidden Dangers of Mouthwash