Believe it or not, this is a serious issue that could impact your health.

By Lauren Wellbank
January 13, 2021
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It's simply the truth: In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks save lives. They also, however, increase the occurrence of the phenomenon called mask mouth or mask breath. Ahead, Dr. Gerry Curatola, DDS, a dentist with Rejuvenation Health and Rejuvenation Dentistry, explains what this ailment is, what causes it, and, ultimately, what you can do to fight it.

Credit: Getty / Oscar Wong

Oral Microbiome

Mask mouth involves the disruption of the oral microbiome due to regular mask wearing, says Dr. Curatola. "It can lead to all kinds of dental disasters, such as decaying teeth, puffy gums, halitosis, and more," he notes. If these issues go untreated, sufferers can be left with serious long-term consequences for both their oral and overarching health. "While we are carrying out our civic duty to wear masks, it's important that we're working to combat the results in order to keep our mouths and bodies healthy," he notes.

Treatment

It's likely that we will be wearing face masks through 2021, which is why Dr. Curatola says that it is important to manage your oral health now. He suggests using a toothpaste with a prebiotic formulation to promote the recalibration of the mouth's acidic environment; he recommends the formulas from Revitin ($14.49, amazon.com). Staying hydrated is also key, since the first thing this ailment causes is dehydration, he continues. "The result is a snowball effect that decreases saliva which, in turn, limits your mouth's ability to remove plaque and bacteria—ultimately causing tooth decay and gum disease," explains Dr. Curatola.

Regular Cleanings

The pandemic has put many non-emergent medical procedures on hold, but Dr. Curatola says your biannual dental cleanings shouldn't be one of them. A build-up of tartar can cause bacteria to become trapped, exacerbating underlying oral health issues. "Normal toothbrushing cannot remove this, so it is important to visit your dentist for a professional cleaning as soon as you feel comfortable with the safety precautions in place," he explains.

Sugar and Breathing

If you're suffering from mask mouth, you might be tempted to cover up your symptoms by sucking on mints or chewing gum, but Dr. Curatola likens this to throwing fuel on a fire. The sugars found in mints and gum create an even more acidic environment; you ultimately end up feeding pathogenic bacteria, which drives this disease. "To prevent this, I recommend limiting snacking between meals, including the consumption of fruit juices that have hidden sugars," he says. Additionally, while you're at home—or in a safe, socially-distanced, or outdoor environment—Dr. Curatola says you should remove your mask and practice deep breathing through your nose. "We're all dealing with added stress, which can, in turn, affect breathing and disrupt optimal oral health," he notes. "It's important to take steps to relax through breathing, meditation, or yoga, so your body can recover from today's high-stress environment."

Bright Side

Dr. Curatola says that there is a silver lining to mask mouth: It has made us more conscious of oral health's role in systemic health and wellness—especially the immune system. "Our immune systems are the number one defense against this virus, so it's crucial to keep our microbiomes in balance to best protect ourselves," he concludes.

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