The effective way to wear a face mask is to completely cover your nose and mouth, and the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded the wearing of masks, which has become the standard basic health and social protocol.
In this column, I will examine whether the constant mask wearing has an adverse effect on your dental health? Constant mask wearing can affect your dental health. And the most likely offender is dry mouth.
Then there’s the fact that many of us have been at home due to work-from-home protocols, or lack of work because of lay-offs, etc. Managing the children and the stress that accompanies this new existence may have also exposed some bad habits. Many of us have become “couch potatoes” and have eaten more sweets and starchy foods. In many cases, dental visits were reduced – especially during 2020, for several reasons; this led to many dental health problems. As a result, the incidence of dry mouth increased, causing bad or smelly odors while wearing masks.
Oftentimes, when your nasal passage is congested, you breathe through your mouth. Also, many people naturally breathe through their mouth into the mask. When you do this, your natural amount of saliva reduces because of the constant flow of air. The air becomes stale, causing bad breath. A dry environment causes a reduced pH thereby increasing the growth of bacteria in the mouth. The result is bad breath, tooth decay, fungus growth and gum disease.
Other conditions that cause dry mouth are diabetes, snoring, tobacco or marijuana use, high caffeine and alcohol use. Also, dry mouth is a side-effect of several medications for depression or anxiety, colds and allergies. A particular challenging cause is patients with a history of past radiation treatments where some damage to the salivary glands were likely.
The best way to maintain a moist oral cavity while wearing a mask is to deliberately breathe through your nose.
Eight things to do during this season of constant mask wearing:
• Be sure to throw away disposable masks and wash cloth masks. Bacteria grow inside these masks, so they should always be fresh and bacteria-free.
• Breathe through your nose while wearing your mask.
• Brush and floss your teeth after meals. Don’t go to sleep after meals. While you sleep, your salivary rate decreases, the mouth dries and the stage is set for decay.
• See your dental health professional regularly, especially if you are high risk for gum disease.
• Drink at least eight to 12 ounce glasses of water every day.
• Eat sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum instead of sweetened gum. It stimulates saliva production.
• Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine may reduce salivary flow placing direct effects upon the salivary glands and your nervous system. Dehydration is the natural chain of events due to frequent urination.
• Use a natural oral rinse like warm salt water, peroxide/water or focus on mouth rinses that stimulate your saliva like Biotene, Corsodyl or Oxyfresh.
I would encourage all of us to continue to wear our masks in the protection of others from infections and through this practice – protect ourselves. Also, be admonished to protect your teeth and gums from deterioration by applying good habits. Good health and wellness begins in the mouth and ends with you.
• Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.