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What is 'mask mouth'? Dentists give tips on preventing bad breath and cavities

The (Raleigh) News & Observer logo The (Raleigh) News & Observer 8/13/2020 By Simone Jasper, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Face masks help to protect against the coronavirus, but wearing them can also lead to a stinky side effect.

Bad breath and tooth decay are possible when people have on face coverings for long periods of time, dentists told multiple news outlets.

That’s because wearers tend to breathe from their mouths, which can lead to dryness, according to experts.

“Now that a lot of us are mouth breathing while we have our masks on, we’re drying out all that saliva that usually protects us from getting cavities, and that’s increasing our risk of cavities,” Dr. Piya Gandhi told Texas station KAMC.

Dry mouth can also cause smelly breath, according to the American Dental Association.

“Just because we’re wearing a mask, and we’re not chewing gum and not worried about people smelling bad breath, it doesn’t mean we’re not having bad breath,” Dr. Daliah Wachs, a medical doctor, told Nevada station KTNV. “You still have to concentrate on oral hygiene.”

At least one dentist has had patients with so-called “mask mouth,” which can be harmful if it’s not treated, the New York Post reported.

“We’re seeing inflammation in people’s gums that have been healthy forever, and cavities in people who have never had them before,” Dr. Rob Raimondi, co-founder of One Manhattan Dental, told the newspaper.

How can you prevent ‘mask mouth’?

Dentists say there are ways you can help protect against bad breath and cavities, but ditching your face covering isn’t one of them.

“We don’t want to stop wearing masks, but we want to (be) conscious of what we can do to stop the dryness in our mouth,” Gandhi told KAMC.

To combat dry mouth, dentists suggest patients drink plenty of water, chew sugar-free gum, brush their teeth and floss. The American Dental Association in its guidance also encourages regular check-ups.

But you may want to hold off on going to the dentist for now, officials warn.

The World Health Organization last week recommended people delay regular dental cleanings due to the coronavirus. Patients are encouraged to put “non-essential oral health care” on hold until the rate of transmission goes down, McClatchy News reported.

During the pandemic, health officials have also urged people to wear face coverings in public to help reduce the risks of transmitting COVID-19. The disease spreads through droplets released from the body when people speak, cough or sneeze, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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©2020 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

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