While the jury is still out on whether healthy people should be wearing masks, there is no doubt that face masks are going to be around for a while longer. There is also no doubt that a mask is not the most comfortable accessory one could flaunt.
One of the most uncomfortable side effects of a mask is that many users find themselves breathing in their own, not at all pleasant, mouth odors. If you are one of those who find yourself breathing in bad smells behind your mask, then understand that your mouth is crawling with bacteria. Bad breath is the result of this accumulation of bacteria. Bacteria can also cause dental cavities. It is also possible that you this bacteria can cause gum disease.
Mask users will notice that after wearing a mask for a while, the area around the mouth and nose under the mask is damp. This is due to moisture that remains trapped under the mask. This moisture also traps the bacteria that comes out of the mouth and forms a perfect breeding ground for more bacteria.
You cannot escape bacteria whether with or without a mask. But saliva and drinking plenty of water usually washes some bacteria away, cleansing teeth and mouth and improving bad breath. When bacteria linger on the tongue and inner surfaces of your mouth for a while, the result is bad breath and tooth decay.
Studies show that plenty of saliva in the mouth and frequent drinks of water are absolutely essential to cleanse the mouth from harmful bacteria, avoid bad breath and tooth decay. Unfortunately wearing a mask makes sipping water a chore since it is unsafe to keep taking off the mask to take a drink of water.
Wearing a mask also makes it difficult to breathe through the nose and so people tend to breathe through the mouth. This results in a dry mouth. A dry mouth signals a significant decrease in saliva. Saliva is imperative as it contains many anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties such as histatins, lactoferrin and lysozyme which kill off bad bacteria. Since saliva fights bacteria, neutralizes the acids from food and drink and cleanses the teeth, a decrease in saliva is a clear invitation to bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.
Since not wearing a mask is not an option right now, a few things you can do to prevent tooth decay and dental caries are:
- Ensure your mask is always clean. This is very important not only because a dirty mask is of no help in avoiding the virus but because a dirty mask is teaming with bacteria from your mouth, your sweat, dirt and bacteria from the outer air and from food particles and drinks you consume. Have a set of masks and change your mask daily just like you would change underwear. Wash used masks with detergent and if possible dry in the sun.
- Create time and space during your mask-wearing hours to take off the mask and take a long drink of water. A lot of it.
- Increase the time you spend in the morning and night with toothpaste and toothbrush. Remember to scrape your tongue.
- Spare a few minutes after meals to make sure your mouth and the area around your mouth is clean before you put your mask back on. Floss after every meal.
- Use mouthwash as often as you can.
- Chew sugar free gum or candy to increase the production of saliva.
- Every couple of hours, take a few minutes to get away from people, remove your mask and breathe in fresh air.
- Reach out to your dentist. The virus is not an excuse any more, to miss out on dental appointments. Your dentist is fully equipped not only to resolve your dental issues but also to ensure that all precautions against the virus are in place.