COVID-19: Prolonged use of mask could affect oral hygiene, say dentists

By Lokmat English Desk | Published: July 2, 2021 05:56 PM2021-07-02T17:56:16+5:302021-07-02T17:56:16+5:30


Dentists, probably the most accustomed to wearing masks owing to their profession, say oral health may be compromised if people do not follow simple rules to maintain oral hygiene.

Paramedics who wear masks, sometimes double masks, for a prolonged time are more prone to dehydration and dry mouth, says Vinitha Ramachandran, director and consultant periodontist at Dr. A. Ramachandran’s Diabetes Hospital.

Such people experience dry mouth and become dehydrated, she says.

“People tend to breathe through their mouth, making them prone to rapid, small shallow breaths that could lead to dryness of the mouth.

They forget to drink sufficient amount of water. This alters the composition of micro-organisms in the mouth leading to bad breath,” she says.

Madras Dental College Principal G. Vimala said, two years ago the institution conducted a study to understand halitosis (bad breath). “Bad breath occurs when people keep their mouth shut for a long time and forget to swallow their saliva. It is possible that it can occur in people who are in intensive care unit for many hours,” she says.

To establish that halitosis could lead to far more serious issues such as dental caries, gingivitis (gum disease) a detailed study including a control group that does not wear masks is required, she opines. “At this time such a study would be unethical as we cannot expose anyone to an infection,” she points out.

She recalled that a group of dentists in Brazil had conducted an online survey to find out if people would seek dental treatment during the pandemic. The study, published in the journal Community and Preventive Dentistry found that wearing masks did impact oral hygiene. The habit of brushing teeth fell significantly, leading to increased incidence of halitosis. Discolouration of teeth did not bother them as they wore masks and were not required to display a smile, the study found. Poor attention to oral health might lead to diseases such as dental caries, gingivitis and periodontal infection, the researchers concluded.