WEARING face masks and coverings could have an impact on your oral health, dentists have warned.
Experts suggest that the increased use of masks due to coronavirus has left some patients with gum disease and bad breath.
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Dr Rob Ramondi, dentist and co-founder of One Manhattan Dental in the US, said around 50 per cent of his patients are being impacted by the use of face masks.
He said: "We’re seeing inflammation in people’s gums that have been healthy forever, and cavities in people who have never had them before."
Doctor Marc Sclafan, also from the practice, said people are experiencing issues due to the fact that mask-wearing means people are breathing out of their mouths more than their nose.
Dr Sclafan said this can cause a dry mouth, which leads to a decrease in saliva — and saliva is what fights the bacteria and cleanses your teeth.
He added that people are drinking less water because they are wearing masks which is leading to dehydration.
Despite this, experts at the British Dental Association (BDA) have said that a deterioration in oral health could be down to a lockdown diet, rather than the use of masks.
The BDA's scientific adviser Professor Damien Walmsley said attempts to link the use of masks to tooth decay are motivated by political prejudice and are not about protecting public health.
"Recent claims on 'mask mouth' are risible. East Asian societies – where face coverings have been ubiquitous for decades – are not confronting an epidemic of decay.
"Dentists wear masks as a matter of course, and we're not exactly at the front of the queue for extractions.
"If patients have seen a deterioration in their oral health, it makes more sense to look at lockdown diets and lack of access to dental services than to indulge in mythmaking."
In the UK it is mandatory to wear a face mask or covering in all shops and supermarkets.
Who is exempt from wearing a face mask in the UK?
While masks are compulsory in most public settings, there are exceptions to those who need to wear them.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "There will be exceptions to these rules for very young children, disabled people and those with breathing difficulties."
According to the official Government guidance, the following groups are not required to wear a face-covering while using public transport or in a shop:
- A child under the age of 11
- People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- An employee of the transport operator, or in any other indoor setting where appropriate when they are acting in the course of their employment
- Where a mask causes the wearer severe distress
- An emergency responder such as a police officer, paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
- Someone speaking to or helping anyone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
- Someone acting to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to themselves or others – including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
It is also mandatory to wear a covering on public transport and if you are receiving a service such as a hair cut.
In these scenarios the hair dresser will also have to wear a mask and a visor.
There are some exemptions to wearing masks and these include if you have a medical condition.
The use of masks is also recommended in places where social distancing is not possible.
Dr Scalfani however added that more patients are coming into the surgery as they are concerned about bad breath.
"Patients are coming into us like, ‘Wow, my breath smells, I need a cleaning.’
"When you smell the bad breath, you either already have periodontal disease or you have a lot of bacteria that’s sitting on your tongue because of dry mouth,”
While masks need to be worn during the pandemic he said that there are things people can do to prevent "mask mouth".
He said drinking more water, cutting down on caffeine and scraping your tongue can all help.
According to Anna Middleton, Hygienist at White & Co Dental, bad breath can also be caused by smoking.
She added: "Tobacco causes its own type of bad breath in addition to staining, loss of taste and gum irritation.
"People who smoke are more likely to suffer from gum disease and have a greater risk of developing cancer. Gum disease is one of the leading causes of bad breath."
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