“Face masks required.” I’m sure you’re used to seeing this on signs all over Colorado and anywhere else you’ve been this summer. This new normal of wearing masks helps to stop the spread of Covid-19, and for now it’s just what we all have to do. I must admit that there are some pretty cool masks I’ve seen my patients wear (like the Denver Broncos ones)! But with all of this mask-wearing, there’s been something unexpected and very unwanted happening. It’s being called “mask mouth” in the media. And yes, it’s a true dental disaster!
I noticed this phenomenon about a month ago, when some patients began asking me why their masks caused bad breath.
“I thought my mask was just getting stinky from being worn all day,” one patient said. “But when I took it off, I noticed it was my breath!”
Of course, this patient was really upset. She brushes, flosses and uses mouthwash consistently and she’s never had an issue with her breath. In fact, she’s never even had a cavity! Now she found herself afraid that her co-workers would notice. Not only that, but she didn’t want to smell her own bad breath all day either.
So, what causes mask mouth?
When you wear a mask, you tend to stop breathing out of your nose, and instead breathe heavier out of your mouth. Now, when you wear a mask for hours at a time, your mouth gets drier and drier from all of this heavy breathing. You don’t make as much saliva, which helps to keep bacteria at bay and your teeth clean. At this point, your chances for halitosis (bad breath) increase significantly.
When you think about it, the same thing actually happens when you go to sleep at night and breathe heavier with your mouth open. You wake up with bad breath.
Can mask mouth be prevented?
There are indeed ways to help prevent mask mouth from happening, and I’ve listed a few below. It’s important to follow these tips if you have to wear a mask all day, every day. If you keep allowing your mouth dry out too much, bacteria can form and cause everything from receding gum lines to tooth decay. So…
- Try to stay as hydrated as possible throughout the day. Drinking water will help to keep your mouth from getting too dry. I know this can be hard to do when you’re wearing a mask, but try your best.
- Cut down on the amount of caffeine you drink. Caffeine is known to decrease the amount of saliva that you produce, and can make an already dry mouth even worse.
- Keep a good schedule of brushing, flossing and using mouthwash. If you have the opportunity to brush, floss and use mouthwash on a break at work, do so.
- Avoid smoking. Not only is smoking bad for you in general, but it also reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth (causing dry mouth).
- If your mask is fabric, be sure to wash it after each use to keep it clean.
- Most importantly: Visit with your dentist and hygienist so they can discuss some product options for a dry mouth.
Ask yourself this question: when was the last time you had a check up and cleaning? If you’re in the Denver or Lakewood, Colorado area, call 303-984-0307 or send me a message to book your appointment today!
Stay healthy, everyone!