As we compare March 2020 to the present, we may conclude that life is slowly returning to normal, however there are still many unknowns. One of which is, “How long will we continue to wear masks?”. In Dr. Fauci’s latest update, he said it is “possible” that we will be wearing masks in 2022.
While wearing masks can be inconvenient, studies show they significantly reduce the spread of coronavirus. The simple barrier helps slow the spread by containing respiratory droplets when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks. While we fully support wearing masks to thwart the spread of COVID-19, we also want to highlight and offer tips on ways to combat dental issues that arise due to mask wearing.
What is Mask Mouth?
Dentists are seeing an increased trend in dental problems associated with wearing masks, dubbed “mask mouth”. People who once had healthy teeth and gums are now showing signs of decay and other dental problems. Why is this happening? The answer is found in the moisture levels of the mouth.
The use of face masks increases the dryness within our mouths fostering the growth of bacteria. Our salvia serves as a protective barrier and has antimicrobial components that help fight bacteria. Salvia also serves a role in our mucosal immune system by preventing viruses from directly entering our bodies.
What Causes Mask Mouth?
Change in breathing patterns: Studies show, wearing a mask causes changes in the way we breathe. Most notably, breath is more rapid and shallow and through our mouths. Breathing through your mouth decreases the amount of saliva produced which plays an important role in washing away food particles and other debris within the mouth.
Dehydration: Drinking water is less accessible when wearing a mask, thus leading to dehydration and further increasing dryness.
Recycling air: Mask wearing increases the amount of carbon dioxide in your mouth. While this level is not dangerous, it can increase your oral microbiome acidity levels resulting in increased risks for infections and inflammatory conditions like gum disease.
Dry Mouth Conditions
Tooth Decay: Salvia helps to flush bacteria and debris out of our teeth. Tooth decay occurs when conditions are hospitable for bacteria to breed, when they do they lower the acidity of the mouth leading to tooth decay. Tooth decay is the precursor to cavities, further it can lead to infection and tooth loss.
Inflamed Gums: Inflammation is our body’s natural response to illness. Inflammation in our gums, or gingivitis, can mean that the bacteria in our mouths is attacking our gums because of the lack of saliva flushing out our mouths. If left untreated, it can lead to periodontal disease.
Bad Breath: Prolonged dryness increases the bacteria in our mouth that leads to dry mouth.
Gum Disease: Gum disease is an irreversible condition requiring lifelong treatment. A dry mouth worsens both the conditions that cause gum disease and the effects experienced.
How to combat these conditions?
- Drink Water: set reminders for masks break and take a few sips of water, becoming dehydrated can lead to a myriad of problems including the dental conditions listed above.
- Practice Breathing Through your Nose: Research suggests that while wearing a mask people tend to breath through their mouths worsening the conditions of dry mouth.
- Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Now more than ever stay on top of your oral health care. Brush, floss, and mouthwash two times each day.
- Chewing Sugar Free Gum: Gum chewing can help combat both bad breath and low saliva levels. Chewing gum can increase production of saliva by 10%.
- Be Your Own Advocate: Watching for signs of tooth decay or gingivitis. If you notice increased sensitivity, discoloration, pain, bleeding, reach out to Shelby Dental Care Center so we can take a look and prevent further decay.
- Use a Clean Mask: Regularly replace your mask, the CDC recommends replacing or washing your mask daily.
What Shelby Dental Care Center can do to help.
- Bi-annual Cleanings: Scheduling and maintain your six month cleanings allows us to thoroughly clean your teeth and assess any issues that may arise between cleanings.
- Gum Disease Treatments: These treatments allow us to, we offer preventative treatment to contain the infection and mitigate how it plays out within the mouth.
- Fillings and Restoration: If your teeth require further treatment for cavities and more, let our experienced passionate staff care and restore your smile.