Medical experts speak out against Anaheim councilwoman’s claim that wearing masks causes dental issues

Articles in recent weeks have referenced “mask mouth,” claiming that masks cause mouth dryness and a buildup of bacteria. Dentists disagree.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring said at this week’s council meeting that dentists are finding that wearing masks can cause serious dental issues, but medical professionals are skeptical.

“Dentists are finding that it’s causing very serious dental problems — cavities, gum disease and halitosis. So keep that in mind when you’re snuggling up to a mask,” Kring said.

Dr. Ramesh Gowda, president of the Orange County Dental Society, said Wednesday that Kring’s comments were problematic.

“There is no scientific basis for that,” Gowda said. “My request to all the nonmedical people who don’t have the expertise, please check with the proper authority. ... It is not fair for any council people or anybody without any knowledge just to assume things and to make recommendations. Leave it to the experts and follow the guidance of the experts.”


The claim has been referred to as “mask mouth” in a few articles circulated over recent days in the New York Post, Fox News and Daily Mail. Each article uses the same two dentists from New York as sources.

One of the doctors, Marc Sclafani, told the New York Post that wearing a mask causes mouth dryness and a buildup of bacteria that leads to dental issues.

Gowda said if people are having increased dental issues, it’s probably due to poor oral hygiene.

He said that because of the coronavirus, patients are afraid to visit the dentist for cleanings, which can result in poor gum health.

Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention at UC Irvine, said if masks caused dental issues then surgeons and other medical professionals would have a higher incidence of them because they wear masks daily for prolonged periods of time.

“Even dentists wear masks themselves all day long,” Gohil said. “This flies in the face of any type of known information and really is concerning to me.”

Gowda echoed Gohil’s sentiments.

“I wear a mask almost seven or eight hours a day,” Gowda said. “Two of my sons are physicians. They wear N95 masks, which are less porous than other masks people wear. They wear them almost every day and I don’t see gum problems, myself also.”

He added: “Look at how many people have died, look at the vulnerable population. … Isn’t it our duty to be considerate for them? All the healthcare workers ask is to wear a mask. As simple as that.”

Brazil writes for Times Community News.