Dr. Nammy talks about the health and dental issues that can arise from wearing a COVID mask for long periods of time, and what patients can do to help combat these issues.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health and author of the best-selling book Age With Style: Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living. Today, our topic is COVID masks and your mouth. Welcome Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi, John. Thank you for having me. I’m delighted to share with you my thoughts about masks and your mouth.
Health Issues from Wearing a Mask
John: Sure. It’s interesting. I mean, today people are wearing masks for many hours a day. Sometimes if they have to go to work and they’re required to wear a mask at work, or I know my kids are going to school two days a week and they have to wear their masks all day long while they’re in the school. So, what kinds of issues can develop because of wearing a mask for hours and hours every day?
Dr. Nammy: The most common and important issue that we have with wearing masks is that there is something called dry mouth. When we are wearing a mask, it’s hard to breathe through the nose, especially if you’re not used to it, like for a child or for you, somebody who is not used to wearing a mask all day every day, it becomes a little bit harder for you to breathe and uncomfortable, really, to breathe. So, what we naturally do is breathe through our mouth. It’s a compensation that our body naturally takes on.
When we’re breathing through our mouth, what happens is that it dries the mouth out. When it dries the mouth out, it creates the perfect environment for bacteria to brew. So, bacteria stick to your teeth even harder than they normally would. If you had saliva, what happens is saliva washes the bacteria away, so you don’t have this bacterial buildup. But when there’s a dry mouth, the bacteria continue to build and build and build and build. It creates a perfect storm for gum disease and bone loss.
The Connection Between Gum Disease and COVID
John: Okay. Interesting. And then, as we’ve talked about before that gum disease that you’re talking about, does it make you more prone to COVID or does it make it so that if you do get COVID your symptoms maybe end up getting worse? What’s the connection?
Dr. Nammy: It’s actually both. So, when there’s an extra bacterial buildup in your mouth, it lowers your immune system. What your body is doing is it’s spending time fighting the bacteria and gum disease, so if you’ve got COVID, your immune system wouldn’t be as strong because the reserves are tied up with fighting gum disease. That’s number one.
Now, number two, what happens is if you get COVID and you have gum disease, you’re more likely to end up on a ventilator because, again, the mouth is a window to the body and has access to your respiratory system. What happens is these snake like bacteria that are linked to dry mouth, also gum disease, they end up being aspirated into the lungs and can put you on a ventilator. I would say, get to the dentist and stay away from COVID.
How to Combat Health Issues When You Have to Wear a Mask
John: Right. Right. Obviously, we can’t not wear our masks in these situations where we have to in order to keep ourselves and everybody else safe. But like you said, you do sometimes end up with that breathing through the mouth issue, and it dries your mouth out. What can people do to try to fight those issues when they do have to wear a mask?
Dr. Nammy: Yeah, that’s a great question, John. One of the things that people can do to make sure that they are staying away from gum disease also COVID and especially having to wear these masks, number one is really making sure you’re getting good rest because that’s the best way to boost your immune system. Making sure you’re eating right, exercising, those are great way to boost your immune system. Using zinc is awesome as well. It’s a great booster for your immune system. Vitamin C is a great booster for your immune system. Good rest. Lowering your stress levels is really great for boosting your immune system.
And as far as teeth are concerned, avoid electric toothbrush, using a Waterpik, keeping the mouth moist through using oils in your mouth. My favorite are coconut and sesame, just rubbing them along the guns. Having lots of water keeps the mouth hydrated, so that’s really great. You can also chew gum, which is really great and especially xylitol based gum. It’s a five carbon sugar versus a six carbon sugar, so bacteria can’t use it to grow. It actually helps create saliva and flushes all those bacteria out of your mouth.
John: And is it possible for people to also be more conscious of not breathing through their mouth and trying to breathe more through their nose, even when they’re wearing their mask?
Dr. Nammy: Absolutely. One of the things I always recommend patients is that put your tongue at the roof of your mouth. That is where it’s supposed to be. If your tongue is at the roof of your mouth, your lips will seal, so it’ll cause you to breathe through the nose, which is the optimum way to breathe because it activates nitric oxide. When you activate nitric oxide, it actually also lowers your blood pressure. It is anti-aging or fights cancer. It is great for cardiovascular health. It’s very important to breathe through the nose, and the best way to do that is put the tongue to the roof of the mouth. You can try that now, and you’ll realize you’ll just naturally breathe through the nose.
John: Absolutely. Yep. All right. Well that’s really great information and great advice, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: My pleasure.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 433-0119.