Tips to Preventing “Mask Mouth”

By : Abby Ruiz

If you would have asked someone 6 months ago whether or not they’ve ever worn a face mask before most would tell you no. However, wearing a mask and/or face covering has become the “new normal” today as we begin to reopen stages of our society across the nation and plays a huge key in protecting our public. Wearing masks has been proven to protect droplet transmission from entering the air and significantly reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Although we understand that mask wearing can be an inconvenience for most, we must be prepared to sacrifice in order to get back to living a more normal life.

Most people will not experience any oral side effects wearing masks because they only wear them to pop into stores or to visit public places over short periods of time. However, it is possible that those who wear masks for prolonged periods of time notice some issues such as bad breath and dry mouth. As your Mississauga family dentist, we believe that it is important to educate and offer tips in order to prevent oral health issues linked to prolonged mask use.

A new colloquial phrase termed “mask mouth” has been linked to the prolonged use of masks. “Mask mouth" is an anecdotal condition in which a rise in cavities and gum disease is found due to prolonged mask use. Although it has yet to be scientifically concluded we could see the possible oral effects of prolonged mask use such as mouth breathing, dehydration and changes in oral care habits.

People may often begin to experience dry mouth, which in turn can lead to an increased risk of cavities. A potential cause of dry mouth with mask wear is mouth breathing in order to increase the supply of oxygen. We are designed to breath through our nasal passages in order to maintain a healthy configuration of our teeth and jaw. When we breath through our mouths, we are drying the mouth out. Saliva is crucial to the health of your mouth, as it acts as a cleansing system to fight bacteria, prevent acid from building up and repairing the teeth. With lack of saliva we are more prone to getting cavities. We may also realize that we might be drinking less water now that we are wearing masks due to having to slide the mask down in order to drink. This can in turn lead to dehydration which can also cause dry mouth. We also find that some people are changing their self care habits and neglecting care due to mask wear. It could be as simple as skipping brushing since others are not able to see your teeth or smell your breath with the new distancing rules. Over time these changes can impact your oral health.

So what can we do in order to avoid these oral health problems associated with mask wear? Firstly, you can consciously increase your daily water intake in order to keep the mouth hydrated to prevent dry mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum throughout the day will also promote salivary flow and freshen up your breath. Secondly, being more aware of breathing through your nose even when wearing a mask. If you are finding it hard to breath through your mask, you may want to consider using a different mask better suited to your face as there is an ample amount of mask varieties on the market today. And lastly, try to maintain good oral hygiene habits by brushing two to three times daily and flossing regularly. Brushing your tongue and using alcohol-free mouth rinses will also aid in preventing bad breath. Just because you are not showing your smile as much doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking care of it.

We at Credit River Dental Centre believe that it is important to stick together as a community in these hard times. We strongly advocate wearing masks in public to help the spread of coronavirus. Being healthcare providers who have spent a lot of time wearing masks we know that wearing masks can be done safely, if done wisely. Awareness is key to many of the issues being faced with prolonged mask use. As long as you continue to practice good oral hygiene, drink plenty of fluids and see your dentist regularly you will be less likely to experience the conditions of “mask mouth”.