As if parents didn't have enough to worry about this year, now one Houston dentist is claiming that wearing face masks is leading to an increase in tooth decay. Considering the fact that face masks are going to be part of your family's daily lives for the foreseeable future, this could be pretty bad news. But do face masks really cause cavities?
In a news report on KAMC News in Lubbock, Texas, Dr. Piya Gandhi, a board-certified dentist, found a correlation between the advent of daily face mask use and an increase in cavities among her patients. The reason, Dr. Gandhi theorized, is because wearing a mask leads to mouth-breathing, which leads to dry mouth, a cause of tooth decay. But San Diego-based dentist Dr. Kami Hoss, D.D.S., M.S., says it's dangerous for people to believe that face masks cause cavities, and points out months of dental office closures as a more likely culprit for any rise in toothaches.
"Cavities aren't going to pause just because there is a pandemic," Dr. Hoss tells Romper in an email. "They’re likely to get bigger, may turn into infections, and cause additional problems.”
Dr. Hoss disagrees with the idea that face masks turn people into mouth-breathers; as he points out, you can still breathe through your nose when wearing a mask, and a slight increase in mouth breathing wouldn't lead to dry mouth anyway. "People with chronic mouth breathing due to nasal airway blockage are the ones who may end with dry mouth," he says.
When it comes to kids in particular, a downturn in dental health over the past several months might be the result of a more relaxed attitude towards snacking and personal hygiene. “During quarantine, daily routines amongst children have been altered,” board-certified dentist Dr. Michaela Tozzi, DMD, tells Romper in an email. “This has led to children snacking more frequently throughout the day.” And since everyone’s schedules have swirled into one big blur, your children might not be brushing as often or efficiently as they should be. “Kids have been home for months and their daily routines have been upended, which includes their daily brushing and flossing routines,” Dr. Hoss agrees.
Instead of worrying about what face masks are doing to your family's teeth, focus on getting everybody's dental health under control. “Limiting sugary foods and helping your children with their daily brushing and flossing routines can go a long way in marking them healthier in all sorts of ways,” says Dr. Hoss. And now that dental offices are reopening, per the CDC, it might be time to put that 6-month checkup and cleaning on the calendar.
Like regular dental care, making sure that your child wears their mask when they’re outdoors (and social distancing isn’t an option) is crucial.