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Now Playing: COVID-19 and Mask Mouth

Sep 16, 2020

By Dean George

Ever been to a movie that was so bad you got up and walked out halfway through it? Of course, that was back when people were permitted to go to theaters. 

None of us have been able to walk away from the COVID-19 horror show that has been 2020, though it certainly hasn’t been for lack of effort. If sheltering-in-place, social distancing and dining curbside in your car on date night hasn’t been bad enough, here’s another gift courtesy of the year time should have skipped: Mask Mouth. 

“Mask Mouth” is a new 2020 oral health term borrowed from another dental phenomenon known as “meth mouth.”  The latter was coined by dentists to describe dental problems often seen in the mouths of amphetamine users with cracked black and brown stained teeth caused by sugar cravings, teeth grinding and a lack of good oral hygiene. 

On the other hand, mask mouth originated from a more benign cause: state edicts requiring the wearing of a mask several hours a day during the COVID crisis.

For months during the pandemic dentists were advised only to see patients in need of emergency care. Now that those restrictions have been loosened and dentists can see non-emergency patients, many are reporting a distressing trend in patients: gum inflammation, cavities and reports of seriously bad breath. 

“We’re seeing inflammation in people’s gums that have been healthy forever, and cavities in people who have never had them before,” says Dr. Rob Ramondi, a dentist and co-founder of One Manhattan Dental. “About 50% of our patients are being impacted by this,” he said in an interview with the New York Post

Most people morph into mouth breathers when wearing a mask, and that causes dry mouth that we’ve written about before in this space.  

“People tend to breathe through their mouth instead of through their nose while wearing a mask,” says Dr. Marc Sclafani, another co-founder of One Manhattan Dental. “The mouth breathing is causing the dry mouth, which leads to a decrease in saliva — and saliva is what fights the bacteria and cleanses your teeth.”

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can lead to periodontal (gum) issues and left untreated, periodontal problems can lead to heart disease and stroke.  

Another issue caused by frequent mask wearing is bad breath, or halitosis. Dr. Ramondi says he’s treated patients who have never had bad breath before but are confronting it now.  Both dentists say the bad breath is being caused by a build-up of bad bacteria, which is also causing cavities in many of their patients who’ve never had cavities before. 

The good news is treating mask mouth doesn’t require a vaccine or personal intervention with immunologist and White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Dr. Sclafani encourages mask wearers to drink more water, reduce caffeine consumption and use an alcohol-free mouthwash. He also encouraged mask wearers to “just breathe your nose!”  

If you’ve been putting off a dental visit because of COVID-19, remember this: once in that dental chair, you don’t have to wear a mask!   

If you want help paying for your next dental visit, click here to see plans available in your area. 

Photo source: Premier Health, Huff Post Australia 

Copyright 2020, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC   

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