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Unmasking Your Smile

 In Dental Health

The year 2020, certainly was a year of changes for many with precautions surrounding the
COVID global pandemic. Many people were out of work, dentist offices had times of closure,
and masks were seen all around. While all of these precautions were important for helping the
community stay safe in uncertain times, dentists have also seen lingering effects on patients’
oral health.

What is Mask Mouth?
While masks were a useful tool in preventing the spread of COVID, wearing a mask throughout
the day can increase dryness in your mouth. This creates an ideal environment for bacteria and
viruses to grow. You saliva acts as a very important protection containing antimicrobial
components which fight bacteria and acting as a natural cleanser for your teeth. So what are
some of the side affects dentists are seeing?

• Increase in Tooth Decay
A dryer mouth can allow food particles to sit on the teeth longer. Saliva acts as a natural
rinse to flush food away, and with reduced saliva production, sugars which sit on the
tooth become a breeding ground for bacteria which cause tooth decay.
• Gum Inflammation
With increases in oral bacteria, your body will create inflammation in the gums. This can
lead to advanced gingivitis or periodontal disease if left untreated.
• Bad Breath
Increased dry mouth can allow bacteria to grow and spread which can result in an
unpleasant odor or what we call Halitosis (Bad Breath). Patients who wear masks for
extended periods may notice a change in the smell of their breath.
• Decreases in Water Drinking
Many who were used to frequently sipping water throughout the day, found this to be a
challenge when complying with mask requirements. People frequently reported
drinking less water when in areas that required masks. Frequent water intake is very
important for overall body hydration as well as preventing dry mouth.

The COVID Clench
2020 presented many changes including changes in work schedules, work locations and school
schedules and remote learning. All of these changes for many led to an increased level of stress. As dentists, we are seeing the result of this in what I like to call the “COVID Clench”. Many patients have experienced increased symptoms of clenching and grinding their teeth. This can result in some or all of the following effects.

• Broken/chipped teeth
Excess force on your teeth due to clenching and grinding can cause teeth to develop
cracks, chips, or even break completely.
• Jaw pain and Headaches
As you clench and grind, excess strain is placed on your jaw joint which can result in
muscle fatigue, inflammation of the jaw joint, clicking and popping, and even
headaches. We frequently see increases in these symptoms during times of stress and
change.
• Limited Opening
In some more extreme cases, inflammation can reach a point that causes the jaw to lock
or causes the patient to observe a limited range of motion.

Delaying Dental Treatment
Many dental offices faced the difficult challenge of having to close for a period during the
COVID pandemic and having to face new restrictions on capacity when reopening. In addition,
many patients opted to put their dental treatment on hold due to concerns about safety during
the pandemic. This put many patients behind on their regular dental cleanings as well as
needed treatment.

The best way to minimize more advanced dental problems is to see your dentist regularly every
6 months. Often delaying dental treatment can result in prolonged discomfort or more involved and expensive dental treatment down the road. With masks coming off and summer here, make an appointment with your dentist to keep your smile healthy and bright! Searching for a great dentist in the Fort Mill, SC area? Magnolia Springs Dentistry is now accepting new patients.  You can schedule your dental appointment today by calling 803-456-2404.

Interested in reading more, check out these articles!
https://www.healthline.com/health-news/teeth-grinding-facial-pain-have-increased-due-to-
stress-from-covid-19#What-you-can-do-to-help-yourself
https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/threats-to-dental-health/what-is-mask-mouth

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