Dentists say face coverings can cause ‘mask mouth’ if not cleaned frequently

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Just about everywhere you go, there is a sign that reads “masks required.” It is the new normal since the coronavirus pandemic began in the spring. Now dentists are warning people to clean their masks frequently to kill any potential bacteria.

They say face coverings can cause another problem — one they call “mask mouth.” 

Dr. Blake Billups, a dentist who has practiced in Memphis for 16 years, says prolonged masks wearing can cause the mouth to become dry. He says if that happens, it can have damaging effects on a person’s dental health.

“There’s not enough data to know the consequences of what it’ll do,” Billups said. “Anytime we have a dryer mouth, we have a higher chance of getting tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease because the mouth is dryer.”

Billups says with everyone wearing their masks all day, it causes a drying effect due to the heavy breathing out of the mouth.

Additionally, he says, if left untreated, bacteria could form and cause tooth decay, receding gums, and bad breath. He says when the mouth becomes dry, the chances for halitosis or bad breath increase. That’s why, when people wake up in the morning. their breath smells worse than during the day.

Billups recommends route visits to the dentist along with brushing and flossing.

“Drinking water, keeping hydrated, keeping water in the mouth to disrupt the bacteria is a great thing to do,” Billups said.

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