Mask Mouth, Disordered Breathing and other Dangers of Prolonged Mask Use
Can’t breathe well in a mask? You’re not alone. So what are the dangers of prolonged mask use? For one, many have begun mouth breathing more often in an attempt to increase oxygen flow, and the dangers of that is alarming. You may have noticed you have “bad breath” while wearing a mask, and while bad breath may not sound like a serious problem, even the Canadian Dental Association has admitted that masks lead to a bacteria build-up in the mouth, and that increased bacteria can have serious consequences (aside from their smell).
Dentists are seeing a trend of dental problems due to the usage of face masks. People who had healthy teeth and gums are now showing new dental problems and it’s not because of unhygienic practices but because of face masks.
Using face masks has increased the dryness in our mouth which helps bacteria and viruses propagate.
Our saliva serves as a protective barrier and has antimicrobial components that help fight bacteria. It also takes part in the mucosal immune system of our body that prevents viruses from entering. The decrease in the flow of saliva in our mouth not only breeds stinky breath but can also put our overall health in danger.
Some of the many health dangers of prolonged mask use include:
Increased tooth decay and gum disease
Inflammation is our immune system’s response to the attack of bacteria and viruses. Inflamed gums can mean that the abundance of bacteria in our mouth is attacking the gums due to the lack of antimicrobial components of saliva. Left untreated, it can lead to periodontal disease. The bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter your bloodstream through gum tissue.
Poor oral health has been linked to heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
Wearing a face mask can make drinking water a chore, and when something is a chore we tend not to do it. Water is essential to the production of saliva, digestive enzymes, mucosal membranes of the body and well… essentially everything else in the body that keep us healthy.
Habitual Mouth Breathing
People are prone to breathe through their mouths while wearing a mask to increase inhalation capacity. But the dangers of mouth breathing may astound you. It is well documented that mouth breathing adults are more likely to experience sleep disordered breathing, fatigue, decreased productivity and poorer quality of life than those who nasal-breathe.
Growth deformities in children
In children, the harmful effects of mouth breathing are far greater, since it is during these formative years that breathing mode helps shape facial structures and airways. Children whose mouth breathing is left untreated for extended periods of time, can set the stage for lifelong respiratory problems and facial deformities.
Because humans and animals alike rely on facial expressions to effectively communicate, we may find difficulty “reading people”, especially for young children who are already taught to be cautious of strangers. It also becomes more difficult to hear what others are saying, so miscommunications happen. Also, when found having to repeat ourselves, many have a tendency to speak louder (expelling more air) and/or lean-in to the other person (there goes the social distancing).
Mental impacts of masking
In many people, wearing a mask can trigger acute symptoms. You might feel impaired, dizzy or severely distressed. Some experience panic attacks, flashbacks or other severe anxiety symptoms.
Even with a mask exemption, you still might feel anxious about being judged, shamed or stigmatized in public. This may feel especially hard if the reason you can't wear a mask is also linked to your mental health.
Mask shaming has become rampant on both sides of the mask discussion, but especially against those who can’t wear them, or choose not to wear them. It is dividing our communities and our families. People out in public un-masked are being accosted and denied their medical exemptions, even arrested.
To mask or not to mask
Continuous mask use today has been pressed upon us via government mandates to help curb the spread of a virus, while flouting the more important dangers that will have a lasting impact on our society’s health for many years to come. Combined with the closure of gyms, fitness facilities and other health services aimed at actually improving our health, we are left to face a future health crisis of immense proportions.
At the end of the day, one must be free to choose for themselves whether continual mask use is worth the proven long-term health damages to themselves and their families. That same freedom must be extended to all without persecution, shame or prejudice. And that freedom, in essence, is the actual reflection of our society’s health.
Cheers to your health,
Tammy Mc Donald, CNP, CPT