Toothpaste maker Colgate has published a warning about what it calls ‘mask mouth’, and a range of symptoms some people may suffer while wearing a face mask for an extended period of time.
Mask mouth, says the company, 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 gum disease,” says the firm.
Dental professionals, says Colgate, attribute these side effects 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.
Colgate says the severity of mask mouth symptoms varies for each person, but the condition most commonly presents itself as:
- Dry mouth. Xerostomia, or dry mouth, occurs when you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. Not only does dry mouth make it difficult to eat, swallow, and speak, but it also increases your chance of developing tooth decay and other oral infections.
- Bad breath. What you eat, your oral hygiene habits and dry mouth can all cause halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath. Prolonged mask-wearing can intensify dry mouth, but it also traps the stench caused by poor oral hygiene or eating smelly foods like garlic and onions.
- Bleeding gums. If you notice your gums are swollen or bleeding, it could be a sign of gingivitis. Wearing a mask may impact the type and amount of bacteria in your mouth, which can cause plaque build-up and advance that to your gum tissues.
The company says that even if you experience some of these symptoms, to keep wearing your mask.