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Wellness Wednesday: Face coverings and oral health myths

Posted at 8:12 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 10:12:53-05

IDAHO — Right now, there's no shortage of myths surrounding face coverings and alleged health concerns related to wearing them as we continue through the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of those issues include possible oral health issues, but one dentist says there isn't evidence to back up the claims.

Dr. Brooke Fukuoka with Your Special Smiles in Twin Falls says there's no link between common problems like cavities and bad breath to wearing a face mask.

"I've not been able to find any valid sources to say that that would be the case, and when I looked into this, I also contacted the American Dental Association to make sure I wasn't missing anything. They also have not found anything to say that that could be a possibility," says Dr. Fukuoka.

Dr. Fukuoka says some of the belief in these claims may be linked to how we did things pre-COVID.

"When we were going to go out, be with friends, and go on dates and job interviews and things, and you think that your breath smells or maybe you ate a garlic sandwich at lunch and what do you do? You smell your own breath, and now you've got this mask on so for some of these people, it's the first time they're encountering their own breath without mentally preparing themselves," she explains.

If you're planning on getting together with friends or family for the holiday season, one way to make sure your breath is fresh and ready to go is by keeping up with your basic oral hygiene.

"One of the things people really don't do as often as they should is floss their teeth, and when you're flossing your teeth, it's not enough to run string between your teeth and then say 'I'm done.' The purpose of flossing is cleaning out all of the debris and gunk that's stuck between your teeth so you're going to want to floss and look at that floss and do it until you don't see anything else on there anymore," Dr. Fukuoka suggests.

Another way to keep your teeth healthy this holiday season: keep up with your regular dentist appointments, even during the pandemic.

"Dentists are highly trained in infection control, and the ADA and the CDC have put out guidelines to help dentists make sure that their offices are safe for you so the dentist's office is actually a low-risk public place because we have a lot of control over our offices," she says. "We're able to mandate people wearing masks in our offices. We're able to enforce social distancing in our office. We have all these infection control protocols to be able to keep you safe that you may not find in some other public places."

Dr. Fukuoka says maintaining your oral health is very important, and in most cases, there are more risks that come from skipping your appointment. Different dentists may have different safety precautions so it's best to contact your dentist before visiting.

For more on how dentists are handling the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.