Masks are great at preventing the spread of disease and are critically important during a pandemic such as COVID 19 to help curb infections. Face masks should be correctly worn, covering the mouth and nose at all times when in public, numerous studies confirm that this is the most effective weapon we have against the spread of the disease by far. This simple barrier helps prevent respiratory droplets from landing on yourself and others when coughing, sneezing, breathing and talking.
How your mask influences what's happening in your mouth
Unfortunately wearing your mask can have some unwanted side-effects - yes, we're talking about "mask mouth". Research by PNMedical shows that when wearing a mask we tend to take shorter breaths, our breathing is more shallow from our mouth, neck and chest rather than from our diaphragm. Breathing out of our mouths the whole time reduces the saliva which normally plays an important role in removing bits of food and protecting against cavities. We also tend to drink less water when wearing a mask, leading to dehydration and in conjunction with the shallow breathing, leaves our mouth even more dry. Furthermore, when wearing a mask we trap more Carbon Dioxide than usual according to Aerosol and Air Quality Research. This has no toxicological effect on the body, but can increase the acidity of the micro-biome in your mouth, increasing the risk of infections and gum disease.
Symptoms of "mask mouth"
Symptoms of "mask mouth" include dry mouth making it feel difficult to eat, talk or swallow. There is not enough saliva in your mouth to keep it moist, increasing your risk of developing tooth decay and other oral infections. The saliva normally plays an important role in removing bits of unwanted food that now remain stuck and start to rot and smell bad. Wearing your mask for long periods of time intensifies dry mouth and also traps the stink associated with poor oral hygiene and from eating smelly foods like garlic and onions. Smelly breath or "halitosis" means you may be a victim of "mask mouth". Wearing a mask for long periods of time affects the types and amount of bacteria in your mouth which can cause plaque build-up that causes your gums to swell and bleed and they may become painful. This can be a sign of gingivitis and a symptom of "mask mouth".
What can be done to prevent "mask mouth"?
Don't stop wearing a mask! Here are some steps you can take to care for your oral hygiene but to stop the spread of COVID 19 remains a priority, it's important that we all stand together on this precaution.