RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The pandemic has added yet another term to our lexicon: "mask mouth."
Dentists report patients who are experiencing a foul smell when wearing their masks.
It's a smell that may be caused by the mask or may have already existed but just wasn't obvious until it was redirected into your nose.
"Typically, a good quality fitting mask will be tight around your nose. So, as a result, what people are doing is they're breathing through their mouth. And when you're breathing through your mouth it will dry out your mouth," Raleigh dentist Justin Russo told ABC11.
A dry mouth can lead to oral-health issues, according to Russo who said, "The bacteria in your mouth will have a more fertile breeding ground, you'll be more likely to have tooth decay, you'll smell bad breath, those sorts of things."
Russo also said masks can compound other dental problems that are cropping up during the pandemic.
"A lot of people are stressed out. I can just tell by people's mood that they're stressed out," he said. "So, they're clenching, grinding their teeth. A lot of people are eating irregular."
Of course, starting with Halloween candy and carrying through the upcoming holidays, eating habits aren't likely to improve.
And if you're already smelling "mask mouth" it may be your body telling you something.
"You're going to get that realization that you've got some things going on and that you might want to get it looked at," Russo said.
In the meantime, if your "mask mouth" does not involve tooth decay or gum disease, there may be a simple solution, Russo said.
"I would make it a point to drink water throughout the day," he advised. "Whenever you're taking a mask break to drink some water."
But he wants to make sure you don't misunderstand his concerns about "mask mouth."
He is not suggesting you toss the mask.
"Having dry mouth with a mask not super helpful, but the mask at this point is a necessary evil and it has much greater benefits," Russo said.
So keep wearing the mask but drink plenty of water.
And, if the problems persist, see a dentist.
'Mask mouth'? Your body may be telling you something
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