Sydney, Australia: NSW is currently grappling with a long lockdown that requires people to wear masks in public spaces, in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Sydney dentist Dr Alfred Tsang of Wahroonga Dental says wearing a mask is important, but can create problems for people who don’t take care of their teeth and gums.
In recent months, he has seen more patients with dental caries because they brushed their teeth only once a day, if at all.
“We are particularly concerned about people who neglect their oral hygiene during lockdowns, as prolonged wearing of a mask creates the perfect environment for cavity-forming bacteria to thrive in your mouth,” said Dr Alfred Tsang.
This is because pests love the dry conditions that occur when our mouths produce less saliva, due to a tendency to take shallow breaths and drink less water while wearing a mask.
The terms for this are “hide the mouth” (dryness, bad breath and bleeding gums).
Dentists recommend strategies to protect oral health, but unfortunately brushing frequency decreases during these stressful times when people hide their teeth behind their masks.
Dr. Tsang’s observations on worsening oral habits are supported by a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry.
What the research shows:
Researchers analyzed survey responses from 1,346 participants to see what impact face masks have on oral hygiene habits.
The results revealed that participants worry less about their oral hygiene during the pandemic.
For example, the number of people brushing their teeth only once per day increased by 126% while wearing the mask.
There has also been a 71% increase in the number of people with halitosis and an increase in the number of people with bruxism (teeth grinding – often associated with stress).
Almost all of the participants (98 percent) said they cared about oral hygiene before the pandemic, but that figure fell 117 percent during the pandemic.
This is concerning, given that the masks create the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive, if people are not taking care of their teeth.
Dr. Tsang recommends the following to avoid “masking the mouth” when taking care of your oral hygiene. “I recommend that you drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your mouth moist, remove food particles, and neutralize lingering acid. Brush your teeth at least twice a day (morning and evening) with fluoridated toothpaste, for about two minutes each time. Remember to brush your gums with light pressure. Floss daily or every other day. Buy a tongue scraper and gently scratch your tongue every morning to get rid of lingering bacteria. Otherwise, brush your tongue when brushing your teeth. Eat less sugary foods and drinks, because bad bacteria love sugar just as much as your taste buds. There’s nothing wrong with having a sweet treat every now and then, but don’t overdo it. Eat more nourishing foods to strengthen your teeth against cavities. Chew sugarless gum (even while wearing a mask) to stimulate your glands to make more saliva. And be sure to visit your dentist at least once a year for a checkup and a deep cleaning session.
As an essential service, Wahroonga Dental is open during NSW lockdown. They still see patients for urgent problems, including dental pain, discomfort with feeding, and other issues. Their experienced team follows all sanitary guidelines and takes every precaution to protect the health of patients and staff.
For more information on the Wahroonga Family Dental Center, contact the company here:
Wahroonga Family Dental Center
(02) 9489 2928
[email protected]Suite 3, 9a Railway Avenue, Wahroonga, NSW, 2076