Dentists say face coverings could be causing gum disease and tooth decay, with the number of patients presenting with oral health problems exploding since mask wearing mandates began.
The owners of One Manhattan Dental in New York City say they have even created the nickname 'mask mouth' to deal with the burgeoning number of cases.
'We're seeing inflammation in people's gums that have been healthy forever, and cavities in people who have never had them before,' Dr. Rob Raimondi told Fox News.
'About 50 percent of our patients are being impacted by this, [so] we decided to name it "mask mouth" — after "meth mouth".
While some Americans have claimed that mask-wearing exacerbates respiratory issues, less attention has been paid to problems plaguing the teeth and gums.
'Gum disease — or periodontal disease — will eventually lead to strokes and an increased risk of heart attacks,' One Manhattan Dental's Dr. Marc Sclafani states.
Dentists say face coverings could be causing gum disease and tooth decay, with the number of patients presenting with oral health problems exploding since mask wearing mandates began (stock image)
Sclafani says most people wearing masks do not breathe through their nose, which is inadvertently causing their mouth to dry out.
'The mouth breathing is causing the dry mouth, which leads to a decrease in saliva — and saliva is what fights the bacteria and cleanses your teeth.
'Saliva is also what neutralizes acid in the mouth and helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease,' he told Fox News.
The dentists told the publication that there is one positive outcome: mask-wearing has made people more attentive to their oral health.
'Patients are coming into us like, "Wow, my breath smells, I need a cleaning."
'[But] when you smell the bad breath, you either already have periodontal disease or you have a lot of bacteria that's sitting on your tongue because of dry mouth,' Sclafani explained.
He is reminding people to drink lots of liquids, brush and floss regularly and remember to breathe through their nose if they're wearing a mask.
Meanwhile, doctors have debunked a number of other conspiracy theories about mask wearing.
One of the main claims on social media is that masks cause a toxic build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood, known as hypercapnia.
This happens when someone breathes in recycled air – usually in confined spaces without ventilation – reducing oxygen and increasing CO2 levels. It causes breathlessness, headache, confusion and, in extreme cases, irregular heartbeat.
Two top dentists told Fox News that there is one positive outcome of mask wearing mandates: it has made people more attentive to their oral health (stock image)
One small study found nurses wearing N95s on a 12-hour shift had ‘significantly elevated’ CO2 levels and reported headaches and feeling short of breath. But these symptoms were not significant enough to be considered hypercapnia.
The CDC says any build-up of CO2 would be unlikely in everyday use outside hospital settings, and could be avoided by simply letting some air in.
Another claim circulating on Instagram and Facebook is that wearing a mask makes catching coronavirus more likely, because the material ‘traps’ infected droplets.
Epidemiologist Prof Keith Neal, from the University of Nottingham in the UK, claims this is nonsensical.
‘The mask is to stop you spreading it – you can’t infect yourself if you are already infected,’ he stated.