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By Contributor
Posted On Jan 25, 2021

By Dr. Derek Giddon DDS

Everyone has a before-you-leave-the-house checklist: keys, wallet, phone, and since COVID-19 broke out I’ve added a few more items like a mask, hand sanitizer, gum. Wait, why gum? Because mask mouth is real, my friends. And it’s more serious than you might have thought.

What exactly is mask mouth? It’s not a marketing ploy to sell more mints. Let’s break it down: When you wear a mask, you’re more likely to breathe through your mouth than your nose, which in turn dries up your saliva. Saliva fights bacteria and cleanses your teeth, so without it, your mouth is like your dorm room freshman year — neglected, dirty, and let’s face it, pretty stinky.

But smell is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mask mouth. See, saliva is also what neutralizes acid and helps prevent gum disease and tooth decay. My colleagues are reporting a lot of oddities in their patients the past few months, including increased gum inflammation and adults getting their first ever cavities, and many attribute this to mask mouth.

Don’t let go Jack, because this iceberg goes DEEP! Mask mouth’s tell-tale bad breath is likely a warning sign of something else going on. As a dentist, here’s how I explain it to patients: By the time your breath smells bad, you either already have periodontal disease or you have a lot of bacteria. Plus, I like to remind people that periodontal disease leads to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease, meaning mask mouth is a lot more serious than you might think.

Now, let’s move on to some good news (finally!!). There are ways to combat mask mouth, while still doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask.
Here’s how:

First of all, gum really just masks the symptoms instead of solving the problem. But there are some simple things you can do to stop bad breath caused by your mask. For starters, drink more water to keep your mouth from drying out. On that same note, try to drink less coffee. Keep travel-sized antibacterial mouthwash on you, and use it after you eat. Think of mouthwash as the new mini hand-sanitizer, a COVID must-have. If you have cloth masks, wash them as often as possible. And, it sounds simple, but it takes some thought: try to breathe through your nose.

Ultimately, going to the dentist for a regular cleaning is your best bet for keeping your mouth healthy and happy. Your dentist can give you a thorough cleaning you’ll feel the effects of for longer, and can ascertain whether your bad breath is due to any underlying causes that need to be treated. Luckily, dental practices are re-opening, and are taking plenty of COVID precautions to keep everyone safe.

So take care of that mask mouth! Your next quaren-date will thank you.

About Dr. Giddon: Derek Giddon, D.D.S. is the founder & CEO of Smylen, a new type of dental plan that removes the hassle of finding dental care. Derek was formerly a practicing dentist in Brooklyn and launched Smylen to build a better dental benefit. ( www.Smylen.com )