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How to Prevent Common Dental Issues Caused by Wearing Face Masks

Bad breath, dry mouth, tooth decay and gum inflammation, the cause of these dental issues could be right under your nose. While wearing a face mask is crucial for preventing the spread of COVID-19, maintaining oral health while wearing a mask is also extremely important. An increased number of people wearing face masks for extended periods of time are facing a variety of dental issues. Learn more about the common characteristics of mask mouth and how to prevent it from impacting your overall oral health.

Dental issues are on the rise resulting from increased mask-wearing. Mask mouth is often caused by wearing a mask for extended periods of time while mouth breathing. Common symptoms of mask mouth can include dry mouth, bad breath and bacteria build up that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. People who wear masks over their mouths for extended periods of time may experience one or more of these four common symptoms.

  • Halitosis
    Face masks trap exhaled air, making us more aware of how bad our own breath smells. The most common symptom of mask mouth is halitosis, the handiwork of mouth bacteria emitting a sulfurous compound contributing to a smell similar to cabbage or rotting eggs. These odor-causing compounds are produced by microbes often living on food bits clinging to the back of the tongue or stuck between teeth, and can thrive in the pockets between the gums and teeth. Short term solutions to cover bad breath should be avoided, including sugary breath mints or sticky peppermint candies. These can cause tooth decay and are common culprits of lasting dental damage. Instead, incorporate an improved daily dental hygiene routine by cleaning teeth with a proper brushing technique for two minutes twice a day and cleaning between teeth with floss or other interdental devices once a day. Visiting your dentist for consistent professional dental cleanings every six months can also help prevent halitosis associated with mask wearing.
  • Dry Mouth
    Saliva is vital to preventing dry mouth and maintaining oral health. It washes away bacteria film that forms on teeth, provides antimicrobial agents to fight bacteria and remineralizes enamel. Constant mouth breathing under a mask dries saliva typically used as a buffer in the mouth to neutralize acids and prevent plaque bacteria build up. When the mouth is absent of this saliva, its pH balance decreases, increasing the risk for bacteria to thrive and develop cavities, tooth decay and oral infection linked to gum disease. Increase saliva production and prevent dry mouth (xerostomia) and cracked lips by drinking water more often, eliminating smoking and avoiding alcohol and coffee consumption which contribute to dry mouth and dehydration. Dehydration and dry mouth decreases salivary flow, allowing bacteria to build around the gum line of teeth. Hydrating helps neutralize acids and plaque bacteria contributing to teeth damage and oral health issues. Following meals between daily cleanings and prior to putting on a mask, swish the mouth for at least 30 seconds with water, try an alcohol-free mouthwash or oral rinse specifically designed to help keep the mouth moist, use a tongue scraper or chew a sugar-free gum with an ADA Seal of Acceptance to freshen breath, increase saliva production and fight mouth bacteria.
  • Tooth Decay
    While bad breath is a top concern, tooth decay and gum disease are far more detrimental. Once plaque bacteria has affected the root surface of teeth, it lacks the hard-protective enamel coating necessary to protect it from decay. Limit consumption of sugary foods and beverages including juice and soda prior to wearing a face mask. If not washed away following consumption, sugary foods and beverages stick to teeth producing acid and plaque bacteria to form. Bad bacteria then thrives in the mouth, and can lead to demineralisation, weakening enamel and causing cavities or tooth decay.
  • Receding Gums
    Oral bacteria can embed in the fabric of cloth masks, providing an environment for plaque bacteria to build in the mouth when air is continually exhaled, then inhaled. Dangerous plaque bacteria and food particles can lurk inside dirty masks. This bacteria can creep into gum tissue, causing swollen or bleeding gums or gingivitis when air is inhaled back into the mouth while the mask is worn. Neglecting gingivitis or delaying treatment for other oral health issues can cause problems to worsen and lead to receding gums or tooth damage. While gum disease can be painless in early stages, bleeding gums when brushing teeth and flossing can indicate periodontitis is progressing. Regularly machine wash cloth masks and toss disposable face masks after each use to prevent inhaled plaque bacteria from hardening on the tooth surface. Once hardened, plaque can convert to tartar or calculus build-up on teeth, causing irritation and inflammation of the tissue and underlying bone. If this build-up is left untreated it can expose the roots of teeth and lead to an irreversible loss of gum tissue surrounding teeth, known as gingival recession. Gum tissue inflammation caused by periodontal disease has been associated with several health risks including heart disease and diabetes. Contact your dentist immediately to schedule a visit to alleviate pain and resolve dental issues if experiencing any teeth or gum sensitivity, pain, bleeding, tenderness or noticing teeth or gum tissue discoloration. We offer sedation dentistry and provide a variety of payment options and affordable solutions to ensure every patient receives the dental treatment they need.

It’s easy to prevent and address common symptoms of mask mouth with an improved daily oral hygiene routine and using the right dental hygiene tools. Avoid these four common dental issues caused by mask mouth and keep your mouth healthy by properly cleaning teeth and gums and keeping up on regularly scheduled professional dental cleanings. Colgate offers additional tips and insight to help address and prevent mask mouth.

Three Rivers Dental Group is committed to patient safety and helping patients maintain excellent oral health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. We’re conveniently located throughout the Pittsburgh area in Greentree, Cranberry, Greensburg, and Jennerstown.