The past year and a half has brought so many changes to our daily lives, as a novel pandemic changed the way we socialize with one another. One of the greatest changes to our social lives was the introduction of wearing masks and other face coverings whenever we were in public.
With this new social norm came new oral health issues most people had never experienced. One of the prominent issues was the experience of feeling trapped in a mask with our own bad breath. Before the pandemic, only a select few (surgeons, doctors, dental specialists, etc.) dealt with the phenomena of having to smell one’s own bad breath behind a mask. But for the better part of 18 months, almost all of us have encountered this unpleasant experience at least once, if not several times a week.
Fortunately, it’s easier than you might think to take control of your mask breath. And we’re going to show you how.
Mask Mouth – The Dirty Secrets of Your Oral Health Behind the Mask
“Mask mouth” is the term used to describe an array of oral health problems caused by wearing a mask for a prolonged period of time. Conditions such as bad breath, dry mouth, increased cavities and even gum disease have been linked to extended mask wearing.
Why Does Mask Mouth Happen?
Mask wearing can cause various oral health concerns because several things take place behind the mask. For one, wearing a mask may change the way we breathe. This is in part caused by the restriction of air flow and the way in which masks cover the nose and mouth. The human respiratory system is constructed in a way that favors breathing through the nose. However, many masks add pressure to the nose, seemingly cutting airflow leading to an abnormal amount of breathing through the mouth.
By breathing through our mouths, we dry our saliva production causing dry mouth, a condition that fosters bacterial growth. Saliva is the body’s natural mouthwash. It breaks down food and cleanses our teeth and gums of bacteria that feeds on the food particles that remain in our mouth after eating. This bacteria, called plaque, produces foul odors, bad breath, cavities, and can lead to many other more serious oral health conditions like gingivitis and gum disease.
Mask Wearing and the New Epidemic of Bad Breath
In addition to dry mouth, wearing a mask limits the distance of airflow that you exhale, which is the goal when slowing the spread of illness. However, this limited exhale also means that much of the bacteria emitted from the mouth (that causes bad breath and other dental concerns) is trapped behind the mask and reintroduced back into the mouth when we inhale.
Although masks are effective in protecting us from COVID-19 and other viruses, the situation that mask wearing creates for our mouths is one that is prone to bacterial build up and bad breath. Many of us have experienced the accosting effects of our own bad breath trapped behind the mask – only intensifying the odor.
Preventing and Treating Mask Mouth
Luckily, there are many things we can do to avoid and overcome the bad breath that mask mouth causes. To free yourself from the dreaded experience of wearing a mask with bad breath, while at the same time utilizing the mask to protect yourself and others from virus follow these suggestions:
1. Stay Hydrated
Because much of mask mouth is caused by dry mouth, it is important to combat this by staying hydrated. Similar to how wearing a mask can adjust the way you breathe, it also causes one to drink less water than they normally would. Staying hydrated by drinking water will not only wet your whistle; keeping your mouth from drying out will actually help you avoid bad breath and mask mouth altogether. Drinking water assists in the process of dislodging food debris in the mouth and rinses bad breath inducing bacteria away.
2. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
Although COVID-19 lockdowns and mask wearing may tempt us to become more lackadaisical in personal hygiene, it is important to maintain a proper oral care routine. This routine should include brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and using antibacterial mouthwash. Good oral hygiene will protect your mouth from bad breath and the unwanted side effects of wearing a mask.
3. See Your Dentist Regularly
Now that we know wearing a mask can actually increase our risk of bad breath, dry mouth, cavities and gum disease, it is even more important to make an appointment with your dentist to get a check up. To make sure your oral health is fully taken care of and your smile is a healthy one, schedule your appointment with our exceptional team at The Steele Creek Dentist. Same-day appointments are available today when you call (704) 800-0252.