To slow the spread of coronavirus in North Carolina, the Governor’s Executive Order mandates face coverings for ages 5 and older when individuals are outside their homes. As more people wear masks for longer periods of time, we have noticed an increase in the very real problem of “mask mouth.”
What Are the Symptoms of Mask Mouth?
- Bad odor
- Dry mouth
- Gum inflammation/bleeding gums
- Tooth decay/loose teeth
What is the Cause?
While you may be tempted to just blame the mask, the mask may simply be amplifying problems that were already there. But it can also contribute because you tend to breathe through your mouth more when you have on a mask, and the lack of humidity in the mouth can cause dry mouth (xerostomia). Saliva helps prevent cavities, so dry mouth increases our risk of cavities and bad breath.
What Can You Do?
There are steps you can take to avoid mask mouth while still wearing a mask.
- See your dentist for a thorough examination of your teeth and gums. If gum disease and tooth decay are caught early, they can be treated more easily. Gum disease can lead to bleeding gums and spaces that trap food and cause bad breath. In addition, gum disease can release a chemical called methyl mercaptan, which is known to smell like cabbage or rotten eggs.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol.
- Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, and floss thoroughly once a day.
- Have your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year.
- Watch your diet and avoid eating anything too fragrant or strong before you have to wear a mask for an extended period of time.
- Wash and dry your mask after wearing it.
Face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of coronavirus. Do your part, but do it without the mask mouth!