The Mask Is On

         In this age of Covid19, we can debate the merits of wearing a mask. What is not discussed is the complications of constant mask-wearing. The consequences of wearing a mask for hours at a time are numerous. Some of the new oral hygiene issues caused by wearing the mask constantly are decaying teeth, receding gum lines, and sour breath. The working terminology for these news ailments is "mask mouth." 

         Unfortunately, mask mouth isn't quite as apparent; the results could be equally harmful. Dentists are seeing inflammation in people's gums that have been healthy forever and cavities in people who have never had them before. The constant wearing of the mask increases the mouth's dryness, which in turn increases the buildup of harmful bacteria. The longer you wear a mask during the day, the more likely you will develop a mask mouth. People tend to breathe through their mouth while wearing a mask. Mouth breathing leads to less saliva and dry mouth. With the face-covering, people also tend to hydrate less. At the same time, people tend to drink more alcohol and acidic drinks. A dry, acidic mouth is a perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow and cause gum inflammation and cavities. 

         Another problem that the dentists are noticing is yeast infections (thrush) in and around the mouth. If you start developing red bumps around your mouth and cracks at the corners of your lips, you may have a fungal infection that is most likely caused by your constant mask-wearing. The moist and humid conditions created by masks wearing, especially in hot weather, are ideal for thrush. Most of the time, the masks are reused, not frequently washed, and are touched unnecessarily, causing them to become dirty and defeating the purpose of wearing a mask. These contaminated masks could also be the source of skin breakouts. The face coverings trap the bacteria expelled by breathing out. This bacteria irritates the skin and causes breakouts. People who wear masks for extended periods are more prone to the risks. 

         Although we are required to wear masks, the bottom line is that we can avoid the problems that emanate from this necessity. CDC recommends washing your reusable mask after every use. They also advise you not to touch your mask while you are wearing it. Washing your face after an extended period of mask-wearing will also reduce the adverse impact on your skin. Breathing through your nose while you are masked up will reduce the bacteria buildup in your mask. And, above all, see your dentist so any adverse effects of mask-wearing can be unmasked. 

Dr. Rapal

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