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

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

Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring said at Tuesday’s council meeting that dentists are finding that wearing masks can cause serious dental issues, but local medical professionals are skeptical of the claim.

“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 non-medical 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.”

Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring spoke of "mask mouth" at Tuesday's meeting.
Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring spoke of “mask mouth” at Tuesday’s meeting.
(Courtesy of City of Anaheim )

The claim has been referred to as “mask mouth” in a few articles circulated over the last several 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 neither are likely feasible. Rather, if people are having increased dental issues, it’s likely due to poor oral hygiene.

He said patients are also afraid to visit the dentist for cleanings due to the virus, which can result in poor gum health.

Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director of Epidemiology & Infection Prevention at UC Irvine, said if masks caused dental issues then surgeons and other medical professionals would have a higher incidence of dental issues because they wear masks everyday 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 her 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 everyday and I don’t see gum problems, myself also.”

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

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