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Dentist approved strategies for protecting teeth and gums from “mask mouth”, a dangerous dental condition caused by frequent and extended use of facial coverings.
Dentists have jumped into the fray regarding the contentious issue of mask-wearing to prevent the spread of COVID. And, what they are seeing is pretty nasty.
Rob Raimondi DDS, a co-founder of OneManhattanDental, said half of his patients are suffering from negative dental issues due to mask-wearing.
He calls it “mask mouth”, a play on words for the well-known term “meth mouth” used to describe the poor oral health of chronic meth users. (1)
How Wearing a Mask Harms Dental Health
Dr. Marc Sciafani, also of OneManhatten Dental, describes the problem as stemming from the mouth breathing that typically occurs when people wear a mask.
Mouth breathing causes dry mouth, which leads to a decrease in saliva. It’s the saliva that fights pathogenic bacteria in the mouth and cleanses your teeth in between brushing and flossing sessions at home.
Dr. Raimondi warns that the effects of mask mouth are serious.
We’re seeing inflammation in people’s gums that have been healthy forever, and cavities in people who have never had them before.
This gum inflammation, known as periodontal disease, is no minor matter either. It can eventually lead to strokes and an increased risk of heart attacks, according to his partner Dr. Sciafani.
Gum disease is particularly dangerous for pregnant women. A study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine found that periodontitis can trigger premature labor and low birth weight babies (2)
Tips to Avoid Mask Mouth
While the dental dangers from wearing a mask are very real, the fact is that they are mandatory in many areas of the world. Hence, many people are forced to wear them for hours at a time at their job.
Fortunately, once you are aware of the health effects to your teeth and gums from wearing a mask, you can take some easy steps to mitigate the risks.
Dr. Sclafani suggests these strategies for protecting dental health from the ravages of mask-wearing:
- Drink more water.
- Cut down on caffeine, which is a diuretic (pulls water out of the body and increases the risk of dehydration).
- Use a humidifier to moisten the air.
- If you use mouthwash, make sure it is alcohol-free.
- Brush or scrape your tongue when cleaning your teeth.
- Do not smoke.
Other Important Strategies
Of course, it goes without saying that if you use cloth masks, daily washing in warm water and mild soap is absolutely imperative! And, never EVER share masks. Research has shown that the bacteria that cause cavities are easily transmitted between people.
Regular use of oral probiotic lozenges to boost the cleansing and protective effect of the saliva is a smart strategy to consider as well.