How Face Masks Affect Oral Health

What’s Happening Behind Your Mask: How Face Masks Are Affecting Oral Health During A Pandemic

According to the CDC, face masks can prevent the transmission of the Covid-19 virus, especially those asymptomatic who are unaware of their positive test results. The face mask is a safety measure used to block the respiratory droplets released by those potentially infected individuals. Wearing a face mask comes highly recommended by the experts in an effort to contain the spread of this virus. 

While many of us acknowledge the efficiency of face masks as protection against further spread, the constant wear over the course of the last several months has shown increasing risks in a person’s overall dental health due to either poor oral hygiene or general over-usage of face masks daily.

There is no denying the impact of using face masks regularly on an individual’s oral health. One of the most common, emerging dental concerns is a trend being coined ‘mask mouth’. Approximately 50% of patients are being affected by ‘mask mouth’ and it is not because of unhygienic practices but just by the simple usage of face masks. These are individuals who have maintained healthy teeth and gums, yet are beginning to show signs of new, developing dental concerns.

When a person wears a face mask it boosts the levels of dryness in their mouth which not only helps to breed stinky breath, but also helps bacteria to thrive and viruses to propagate. Basically, saliva serves as a defensive barrier with antimicrobial components which help combat bacteria. Saliva is a part of the mucosal immune system within our anatomy that prohibits viruses from entering directly onto the surface of our bodies. The decreased flow of saliva may put one’s overall health in question or danger.

Even though face masks are a part of ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ (PPE), if a person lacks the understanding or wears a face mask which is not properly sanitized or used for an extended period of time, they may not be aware of the negative implications to their oral health.

How Face Masks Affect Oral Health

KidZdent aims to keep our patients safe by educating them on the conditions below:

  • Increase in Tooth Decay – Additional dryness of the mouth which is caused by wearing face masks escalates the surge in potential tooth decay. Since there is not as much saliva to flush out food particles in your teeth naturally, the bacteria are able to flourish.
  • Inflamed gums – Inflammation refers to the body’s process of fighting against toxins, infections or even injuries which seek out to harm it. When the body is experiencing any type of damage to its cells, chemicals are released to stimulate recovery. Inflammation is an attempt for the body to heal itself.  It is our immune system’s response to the attack of bacteria and viruses. However, even though inflammation may be the first physical sign of defense, it cannot not be left untreated- especially when it comes to oral health. The abundance of bacteria in our mouth will attack the gums due to the lack of antimicrobial components of saliva, leading to periodontal disease.
  • Bad breath – Halitosis which is more commonly known as bad breath predominantly stems from the odor-causing bacteria present in our mouth and/or prolonged dryness in the mouth which ultimately makes it worse by strengthening the odor as bacteria builds. Whenever you are wearing a face mask for hours on end, you will notice your mouth may begin to dry-out. As time progresses, there will be a change in the smell of your breath which you can actually sense yourself due to the face mask.
  • Gum disease – Prevention is key when it comes to gum disease because it is a dental condition that once the damage is done, is irreversible. Gum disease requires a lifetime of dental care and potential treatment. Dry mouth is a huge culprit behind gum disease. Dry mouth from wearing face masks can lead to plaque build-up and slowly deteriorate the gum tissue and the bone structure in a person’s mouth. Unfortunately, in most cases, gum disease is properly diagnosed when it is passed the point of a turnaround- when symptoms like receding or inflamed gums becomes apparent.
How Face Masks Affect Oral Health

Tips for Wearing A Face Mask & Your Oral Health

  • People have a higher likelihood to breathe through their mouths while wearing a face mask to increase inhalation capacity. However, being prone to doing so can make dry mouth worse, which is not good for your oral health and will lead to various dental ailments if persistent. As dental professionals, we recommend taking deep breaths through your nose as often as needed.
  • Maintaining positive oral hygiene to avoid all of the concerns brought upon by dry mouth when wearing the face mask is also very important.
  • Drink plenty of water. We understand- especially while wearing a face mask- that drinking water throughout the day can become a bit of chore. Many individuals tend not to hydrate often because of this and become a risk factor for several health concerns directly correlated with their oral health.

Wearing a protective facemask is the “new normal” and will be for some time.  For this reason, people must stay proactive about oral health to avoid unnecessary dental emergency situations and lifelong issues.

Our health is the new luxury. Prioritize your oral health by booking your child’s preventative dental care visit or regularly scheduled dental cleaning today! We are here for your family and the healthy smiles behind your face masks!

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