The topic of face coverings and the benefits of them has been a widely debated topic since the coronavirus pandemic was declared back in March. In England from the 24th July onwards, the government imposed a new policy declaring that face coverings were mandatory for adults and children aged 11 and above on all public transport as well as certain indoor settings such as shops, supermarkets and museums.
Whilst most people are now comfortable and used to wearing masks on a regular basis, there are new warnings from some dentists that face coverings could be having a negative impact on some individual’s oral health and hygiene.
The experts at our Essex Dental Practice take a look at the affects that masks can potentially have on patients teeth, gums and what you can do to help keep your mouth healthy whilst still using your mask and staying safe.
How can wearing a mask affect a person’s oral health?
According to some dentists, they have seen a rise in patients with inflammation, gum disease, cavities and bad breath, where they have previously had no issues before and this has been aptly named by some as ‘mask mouth’.
It is heavily suggested that these issues could be caused by breathing out of the mouth whilst wearing the mask, rather than through the nose. It is believed that this can often lead to dry mouth which causes decreased saliva and it’s that saliva which is vital in fighting bacteria and cleansing the teeth. As a result of the restricted moisture flow, there is an increased tendency for cavities, gum disease and bad breath.
Another consequence of prolonged mask wearing is that people are often drinking less water, less often, in order to keep their mask on and their face covered which leads to dehydration and exacerbates the issue of dry mouth.
Are there any other contributing factors?
There is huge debate as to whether face coverings are solely responsible for the increase in cases or if there is in fact additional reasons that may be responsible or contributing to oral hygiene problems.
- Lockdown Diet
There is little doubt that most people have indulged more than usual throughout the pandemic with plenty of high sugar home baking and boozy summer BBQ’s.
During times where lockdown was at its strictest almost everybody was significantly affected by the food supply chain, having to queue outside supermarkets sometimes for over an hour just to do a food shop. This meant that people often had to stock up on lots of long life, artificial products in order to extend the gap between shopping trips and made people much less able to ‘pop to the shops’ for healthy, fresh, perishable items such as fruit and vegetables which only last a few days.
- Unable to Visit Dentist
As much as people are responsible for their own oral health, it can be a routine dental examination that picks up on early stages of decay and other problems which can be a wake up call and help to catch potential issues before they become a serious problem.
With many dental practices having to close for months at the height of the pandemic and even now working at reduced capacity in order to maintain health and safety protocols and social distancing. Most practices are still only able to offer limited appointments for the most critical patients, resulting in lots of people who are way past due their annual check-ups and hygienist treatments.
What can you do to help keep your mouth healthy?
In order to keep your oral health in check it is important to maintain the regular key aspects of dental hygiene such as;
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride-based toothpaste, as well as regularly flossing and mouthwash
- Use the right cleaning techniques to ensure that you are brushing with optimal effectiveness
- Drink water regularly as well as after meals or snacking
- Keep sugary and acidic foods to a minimum
- Stop smoking
- Contact your dentist if you have signs of any issues such as sudden, intense pain, loose permanent teeth or gums that keep bleeding
In relation to wearing face coverings, there are also some additional steps that can be taken to help prevent dental problems.
- Try to breathe through your nose where possible rather than your mouth
- If wearing for long periods of time, try to take regular breaks to hydrate with water
- Try using sugar free gum or lozenges to help promote salivary flow
How can Sharrow Dental help?
At Sharrow Dental we remain dedicated to treating our patients and providing the very best care possible, even in these uncertain times.
If you are experiencing dental problems and need some advice on what to do then please visit our Covid-19 advice page to find out what steps to take.
If you need more information about availability, types of treatment we are currently able to offer or anything else, please do not hesitate to get in touch and one of our team will be happy to help.