The Dangers of “Mask Mouth” for People with Braces

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young woman wearing a facemask

Even though the year just started and we’re nowhere close to Halloween, you and everyone you know probably find themselves wearing a mask relatively often. While this is a proven way to protect everyone’s health during the ongoing pandemic, many people are having to deal with what dentists and orthodontists are calling “mask mouth” as a result. This poses a risk for everyone, but it can be especially troublesome for those with braces. What is it, and how can you keep yourself safe? Keep reading to learn how a few simple tips can make mask wearing more pleasant and healthier for your smile!

What Exactly is “Mask Mouth”?

“Mask mouth” sounds like the name of a villain in the latest Marvel movie, but it refers to an increase in cases of bad breath, cavities, gum disease, and ulcers that coincides with the population wearing masks due to COVID-19.

Oral health professionals noticed it in 2020, and today, they understand the cause of the problem, which actually isn’t new at all: dry mouth. When a person wears a mask, they tend to breathe through their mouth more often, plus they drink less water throughout the day (this is particularly true for those who have to wear their mask at work).

Dry mouth refers to when there isn’t enough saliva production. Saliva serves many functions—it rinses food particles out of the mouth, controls the level of bad bacteria, and maintains a neutral pH so the teeth don’t decay. When there is a lack of saliva, oral bacteria increases, and this not only makes your breath smell bad, but it also heightens your risk of developing cavities and gum disease.

Mask Mouth & Braces

Even though it can happen to anyone, mask mouth can be especially troublesome for people with braces. That’s because the brackets and wires create more surface area in the mouth for harmful bacteria to cling to. More bacteria plus more places for the bacteria to accumulate is a bad combination!

Bad breath is annoying at best, but a serious oral health issue like a cavity or toothache can derail a braces treatment and delay it entirely. That’s because the decay needs to be addressed immediately, and in many cases, this may involve temporarily removing the braces. This not only makes treatment take longer, but cost more as well.

How to Stay Safe

Thankfully, mask mouth is not inevitable for people with braces. In addition to brushing and flossing every day and regularly seeing their dentist and orthodontist for checkups, they can do a few things daily to keep their mouth healthy:

  • Have a refillable water bottle and sip it throughout the day (drinking water increases saliva production).
  • Carry a to-go oral hygiene kit so it’s easy to brush and floss anywhere.
  • Make it a point to primarily breathe through the nose (which won’t interrupt saliva production).

Wearing a mask isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it’s a part of everyday life right now. For people with braces, being more diligent about their oral health will not only make it more pleasant, but will also ensure they are able to finish their treatment without any hiccups.

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is an award-winning, board-certified orthodontist who serves patients of all ages in the Columbus area. He works diligently to stay up-to-date on the latest public health news so he can always share the latest findings with his patients. If you have any questions about how you or your child should take care of orthodontics during the pandemic, he can answer your questions. To get in touch with the team at Shirck Orthodontics for more information, click here.