Just when you’d wrapped your head around the dreaded “maskne”, a new mask-related problem has rolled into town – and it goes by the name of “mask mouth”. A blanket term that refers to the state of our oral health now we’re wearing protective face masks over our mouths and noses most of the time, mask mouth could well be impacting the future of your smile.
“Wearing a face mask tends to encourage breathing through the mouth instead of the nose, which causes dryness in the mouth,” explains Anna Davies, dental surgeon at Wellwood Dentistry. “Saliva is vital for the protection of teeth and gums against bacteria in the mouth. Without it, we find ourselves vulnerable to problems such as bad breath, gum disease, and even cavities in the teeth.” Dr Daniel Cichi, a GP and medical advisor at Doctor 4 U, agrees, adding that masks can also prevent us drinking enough water throughout the day, something that’s important for keeping the mouth clean, preventing bad breath, and warding off long-term dental issues.
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Oh, and then there’s our diets, which by all accounts have suffered during lockdown. Research suggests that not only are we eating more sugar, we are snacking more and eating more frequently generally. It all sounds like stress-eating at its finest, which doesn’t only impact our gut, but our oral health as well.
So what can we do to mitigate mask mouth? First, be sure to drink water frequently, and avoid sugary drinks and snacks to “maintain a neutral pH in the mouth and keep levels of protective saliva at an optimum”, advises Davies. Any drinks like coffee should be followed immediately with a glass of water, to swash any potential cavity, sour breath or staining out of the mouth before it’s had a chance to take root.
Dr Cichi also recommends flossing throughout the day where possible, and especially after meals that contain foods likely to get stuck between teeth. “I recommend allowing yourself an extra five minutes in the morning and at lunch to ensure that you are able to floss before you put your mask back on,” he says. A good quality fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash and a good toothbrush can – obviously – help too. The new Oral-B iO electric toothbrush harnesses the power of AI to help you clean your teeth extra efficiently for the required two minutes.
Read more: The Best Electric Toothbrushes
And finally, always ensure your mask is clean every time you wear it to avoid bacteria festering. “Wash it daily, or have a few masks on rotation so you can alternate and ensure you’re wearing a freshly-washed mask each day,” advises Dr Cichi. Adopting a rigorous approach to cleanliness all-round will help you to make the threat of “mask mouth” a thing of the past.
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