Wearing a mask to protect yourself from Covid-19 for long hours? Beware of its side effects on oral hygiene

That mask that you are wearing to protect yourself from Covid-19 may not be saving you from oral hygiene woes after all! Being a little mindful can help.
Heard about mask mouth, have you? Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Radhika Bhirani Updated: 10 Sep 2021, 15:28 pm IST
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Given that it’s back-to-work, back-to-school time for many people, aren’t you finding yourself wearing a mask – your guard against Covid-19 – a whole lot more? Ever wondered about what even that teeny-weeny bit of air getting trapped within, or a disrupted breathing pattern may be doing to your oral health? Turns out that wearing a mask for too long can lead to a condition called mask mouth!

When the concept of wearing masks became a daily reality with the onset of Covid-19, several questions were raised about whether they would restrict breathing activity, retain carbon dioxide, circulate bad breath in the body, and make a person feel suffocated. Over time, people have become used to the masks, and experts have spoken about how the cloth and surgical variety are not as restrictive as the N95 masks. Still, dental experts caution against mask mouth.

Wearing a mask is essential in these times to guard against coronavirus. But oral health is important too! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

It is time for you to also think about what may be hidden behind the mask!

What is mask mouth?

According to Dr. Gunita Singh, Director at Dentem, and Associate Consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital,  mask mouth describes the variety of oral side effects from wearing a mask for an extended time. Mask mouth might include dry mouth, bad breath, tooth decay, and even gum disease.

These side effects, as per dental professionals, can be attributed to a few factors:

  • Disrupted breathing patterns: A study conducted by PNMedical shows how wearing a mask can impact your breathing, causing more rapid, shallow breaths using your mouth, chest, and neck instead of your diaphragm. Breathing out of your mouth decreases the amount of saliva, which plays an important role in your oral health-washing away food debris and defending your teeth from cavities.
  •   Dehydration. Wearing a mask also causes you to drink less water than usual. Dehydration can lead to dry mouth, increasing your risk of tooth decay and bad breath.
  •   Recycling air.  When you wear a mask, you trap more carbon dioxide in your mouth than usual, according to Aerosol and Air Quality Research. This amount of carbon dioxide does not have a toxicological effect on your body. However, it can increase your oral microbiome’s acidity, which might put you at risk for infections or inflammatory conditions like gum disease.

Also Read: Gum disease and poor oral hygiene can increase your risk of Covid complications

Brush your teeth, clean your tongue, and keep your oral health happy! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
5 ways to avoid mask mouth

As with most things health-related, preventive care can work best to keep you away from facing the mask mouth scenario, and maintaining oral hygiene among adults and the young alike. Dr Singh tells us all about it.

1. Maintain good oral hygiene

Don’t forget to brush twice a day:  Whether it’s morning or night, brushing is must. Due to busy schedules, people usually forget to brush at night or take it for granted, but this is the biggest mistake that they make. For maintaining oral hygiene, brushing twice is the key essential thing to follow. 

Gum massages: We all are quarantined at our places and this is the best time to take care of yourself. Spend some time with your gums as they are the foundation of our teeth. Healthy gums are equal to healthy teeth. Massaging in a circular motion for 5 minutes in the morning and evening with the oil of your choice ( olive oil, vitamin E oil, almond oil) can do wonders for your gums.

Tongue cleaning should be a priority: Once a day, tongue cleaning with glycerine and cotton pad can prove to be magical not only for you to have a lovely, healthy pink tongue but also bacteria-free oral cavity.

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Mouth wash: Rinse your mouth after every meal for 2-3 times with a mouth wash of your choice. Swirl it for at least 30 second each for best results

2. Drink plenty of water

As we avoid removing a mask in the offices and public places for long hours, it becomes a challenge to hydrate ourselves adequately and drink water after frequent intervals. This can lead to dry mouth, followed by other conditions associated with it. So, make way for water irrespective of the challenge.

Include breathing exercises in your daily routine. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
3. Meditation and breathing exercises are the key to good health in all circumstances:

Breathing is really affected in a big way when people wear a mask all the time. So, if we start working on our breath work by doing Pranayama in the form of Kapalbhati, Anulom vilom and Brahmari, we can keep our health in place.

4. Keep your face and lips moisturized:

Use the moisturiser generously. Applying a lip balm is a good idea. Using a humidifier in a room where you are working with a mask on can also help. Just a little additional humidity in the room can solve the problem.

5. Lozenges and chewing gum:

Sugar free lozenges and chewing will help keep the oral cavity moist and also increase salivation, apart from controlling cavity situations. Add probiotics to your diet to curb acidity.

Remember to mask up, but also remember to avoid a mask mouth, ladies!

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About the Author

Radhika Bhirani is a journalist with close to 15 years of experience in the Indian media industry. After writing extensively on health, lifestyle and entertainment, she leads the English content team at Health Shots. She has a special interest in writing on mental health and wellness. ...Read More

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