As we all focus on protecting ourselves against COVID-19, it’s easy to not notice the dryness of our mouths. Bacteria love a dry mouth as it helps them multiply and attack your teeth and gums in a matter of hours. We may be safe from COVID, but most of us are not safe from dental conditions due to dry mouth.
Dental conditions caused by dry mouth
Your saliva serves as the protective barrier of your teeth, gums, and tongue against disease-causing bacteria. It contains antimicrobial properties to help fight bacteria and enzymes to break down food. Your saliva also helps flush away food particles from your teeth and prevent plaque buildup.
Due to our constant use of face masks, most of us tend to unconsciously breathe through our mouths and forget to hydrate. Thus, resulting in dry mouth and dehydration. Consequently, prolonged dryness in your mouth can lead to the following dental conditions:
Without enough saliva production, bacteria will feed on the sugars from the food debris left in your teeth and start forming plaque. They will release acids that can break down your tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. You will feel pain once they successfully infiltrated your tooth pulp, where blood vessels are located.
If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to a tooth abscess or tooth loss. It only takes 12 to 24 hours for the bacteria to form a visible film of plaque. So, if you are wearing a face mask all day, you might fail to notice the impact of dry mouth on your teeth.
A dry mouth also makes it easier for you to develop mouth sores due to direct friction with your teeth. Mouth sores are small lesions in the mouth that are essentially not a serious condition but painful.
Saliva helps lubricate your mouth and keep your teeth from rubbing off with the soft tissues and areas in your mouth. Also, if mouth sores start to develop, your risks for infection become another factor.
Oral thrush or yeast infection is a dental condition due to the fungus Candida albicans that overgrow in your mouth. Since a dry mouth is a perfect environment for bacteria and fungus to thrive, you are more susceptible to develop white lesions on your tongue, throat, or cheeks due to yeast infection.
A dry mouth leaves your gums unprotected from the concentration of bacteria found in plaque. Bacteria can seep through the space between your teeth and gums and cause gum inflammation.
The inflammation can progress and spread the infection down to your jawbones. Gum disease or periodontal disease is an irreversible dental condition and has been linked to several chronic diseases like heart disease.
Increased risks to viral infections
The irony of face-mask-induced dry mouth is, it can either protect us from COVID or put us at risk for other illnesses if not used properly. A dry mouth makes us more susceptible to viral infections and diseases like the flu. Our saliva is our first defense against viruses that try to enter our body, and without it, bacteria can fall directly on our bare mouth surfaces and cause an illness or infection.
Tips to prevent dry mouth under a face mask
It can be a challenge to prevent dry mouth while wearing a face mask. So, here are some tips to protect your oral health amid the pandemic:
- Avoid mouth breathing: Unconsciously, most of us breathe through our mouths when we wear a face mask to gasp more oxygen. But your nose can solely do its job in keeping you breathing, so opt to close your mouth while wearing face masks. Stop being a mouth-breather, and you’ll save not only your teeth but also your entire mouth from developing any dental condition.
- Limit consuming sweet foods and drinks: Sweets are among the foods that can make dry mouth worse. Plus, bacteria thrive with sugar, so you may want to skip eating it while wearing a face mask.
- Drink more water: While it can be tedious to take your mask off to drink and put it back on, you will thank yourself later for doing it. Aside from preventing dehydration, you’re also flushing away the threats to your oral health.
- Maintain good oral hygiene: Other prevention tips in this list will not work without good oral hygiene. Practice brushing and flossing twice a day or before and after you wear a face mask for optimal oral health.
- Consult a dentist: With the increased risk for dry mouth, it is essential to visit your dentist and check for any signs of tooth decay or any dental condition. Genesis Family Dentistry provides comprehensive dental services in Uptown Charlotte to cater to your dental needs amid the pandemic. Our services include:
Any dental condition can affect your immune health and put you at risk for COVID. Schedule an appointment now to maintain a healthy mouth behind your face mask.