More than Stinky Breath: “Mouth Mask” Increases Tooth Decay & Gum Disease


Some bad breath just can’t be covered up. Did you know that stinky breath behind your face mask could be more than a simple, embarrassing problem? Today, more and more dentists are seeing a rise in gum disease. The new oral hygiene issue — caused by, you guessed it, wearing a mask all the time — is leading to all kinds of dental disasters like decaying teeth, receding gum lines and seriously sour breath. A term coined “mask mouth” is a contributing factor to the increase in oral health problems. Thankfully, there are many ways to treat this and keep mask mouth at bay! Let’s dive into some helpful tips and information.

Mask Mouth: Learn More about the stinky side effect HERE.

What Causes Mask Mouth?

Mask mouth describes the variety of oral side effects from wearing a mask for an extended time. Mask mouth might include dry mouth, bad breath, tooth decay, and even gum disease. Dental professionals attribute these side effects to a few factors:

  • Disrupted breathing patterns. Wearing a mask can impact your breathing, causing more rapid, shallow breaths using your mouth, chest, and neck instead of your diaphragm.  Breathing out of your mouth decreases the amount of saliva, which plays an important role in your oral health — washing away food debris and defending your teeth from cavities.
  • Dehydration. Wearing a mask also causes you to drink less water than usual. Dehydration can lead to dry mouth, increasing your risk of tooth decay and bad breath.
  • Recycling air. When you wear a mask, you trap more carbon dioxide in your mouth than usual. This amount of carbon dioxide does not have a toxicological effect on your body. However, it can increase the acidity of your oral microbiome, which might put you at risk for infections or inflammatory conditions like gum disease.

Common Symptoms of Mask Mouth

Bleeding Gums:

A common symptom of mask mouth is bleeding or swollen gums. This comes from an excess of bacteria and plaque in the mouth. If you’re experiencing swollen or bleeding gums, it’s a telltale sign that something isn’t right. Consult with your dentist quickly to determine the cause and find a fix!

Bad Breath and Dry Mouth:

One of the most common sign of “mask mouth” is bad breath. If you’re breathing through your mouth while wearing a mask, you’re drying out your mouth and causing bad breath. This can also cause dry lips. Saliva is such a great tool that our body already produces to help keep the germs out of our mouth, so when our mouth becomes dry and we lose saliva production, we build more bad-breath bacteria in the mouth. Less saliva in the mouth also means we are more prone to tooth decay and infections.  So, when we are wearing our mask often and experience dry mouth, we’re advancing or progressing tooth decay.

Related Article: Can Asthma Cause Gum Disease? 

Receding Gum Lines:

Recession in the gums is often caused by gum disease. With the higher bacteria production from mask mouth, dentists are seeing gum disease progress more rapidly.

Gum Disease:

Periodontal disease (periodontitis), also known as Gum Disease, has been known as the leading cause of tooth loss in adults for quite some time. Learn More about Gum Disease HERE.

Gum Disease can be prevented! There are several ways you can avoid the beginning of gum disease. We want you to be on the lookout for these tell-tale signs so, we’ve gathered some interesting information and statistics for you as well in this article: We Can Prevent Gum Disease

Here’s How to Conquer Mask Mouth

Bad breath is often a sign that something isn’t quite right. When we wear our masks, we may breathe through our mouths more and dry out our mouths. While this may not seem like an issue, when we dry out our mouths, we leave them more susceptible to bacteria growth. When bacteria grows in our mouth, we can experience things like cavities and gum disease. Saliva is a huge multitasker in our mouths and it constantly keeps bacteria at bay. When we lose saliva production, we lose our biggest bacteria fighter.

There are definitely some changes we can make to reduce the symptoms of mask mouth and keep our teeth cleaner and less prone to decay.

  • Watch your diet: Certain foods can make our breath stink, so when we’re wearing a mask it’s extra important to think about what you’re consuming. Try to avoid coffee, garlic, and onions and try swishing with water after eating.
  • Freshen up. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day. Make sure you’re brushing your teeth correctly and try keeping mouthwash on hand to fight bad breath and bacteria in-between your brushings. Chewing sugar-free gum can also help with this. It also might be time for a new, fresh toothbrush.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day and try to avoid alcohol, coffee, and sugary drinks, which can cause dehydration and buildup of bacteria.
  • Use a clean mask. Replace your mask often and clean between wearing.
  • Take fresh-air breaks. Try and take a few breaks throughout the day and breath fresh air through your nose. How to take care of your mouth behind a face mask:

The Silver Lining of the Covid-19 Pandemic

CONGRATULATIONS! If you’re reading this blog, it means you’re one of the lucky ones who persevered and is continuing to survive through the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 will forever be the year of COVID – the year that changed how we see, hear, think and feel. It disrupted life as we knew it with work, education, shopping, worship, exercise, eating, entertainment, holidays and events.

We have lived it! Now what?

Do we wallow in the adversity, and doom and gloom, or start the new year with silver lining lessons for recovery and rebuilding?

Here are just a few silver-lining takeaways from 2020 to keep in mind as we begin the New Year:

  • Whether man-made or natural, global disruptions connect us all despite differences and geography.
  • Even in the darkness, there is kindness in humanity. We witnessed people shopping locally, restaurants donating food to first responders, volunteers bringing groceries to the elderly, and drive-by birthday celebrations.
  • Dentistry is now an essential service of health care. It was not forced to shut down because of the importance our dentists play in our community’s overall health and wellness.
  • The dental office is safe and low risk. There were no major instances of virus spread or disease transmission with the standards of staff training, massive sterilization, PPE and air filtration.
  • People are adaptive and adjust. They can handle extraordinary change to routines by finding creative ways to retool to meet their needs.
  • Life is precious. Gratitude for the small things will increase happiness and play an important role in feelings of loneliness and social bonding. Be grateful for our health, friends, jobs and homes with food in the fridge to feed our families.

The pandemic has caused us much adversity, disruption, loss, and challenges. However, it has also provided us with silver linings of opportunity to change our perceptions, shift our mindsets and reset, reflect and reenergize to be more efficient.

Consult the Experts at the offices of Thomas L. Anderson, DDS and Associates

If you’re experiencing significant problems with your oral health due to mask mouth, make an appointment to come and see us! We can help you understand what’s going on and provide an exam and solutions. Our staff is here to support you!

Contact us today to schedule your dental appointment and meet with our skilled dentists at one of our three conveniently located dental office locations within the Kansas City area, including Lee’s Summit / Independence, the Country Club Plaza and Downtown Kansas City. The gentle dentists and expert team at Thomas L. Anderson and Associates look forward to working with you to treat your dental emergency, achieve proper oral health and a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime. If you have any questions about your dental insurance benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We are happy to review your policy! Please give us a call today to schedule an appointment and become part of our dental family.