Mask Up: The Hidden Dangers of Reusing Face Masks

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks became an essential tool in preventing the spread of the virus. But now that masks have become an indelible part of the "new normal", it's crucial to understand the potential risks associated with improper mask usage. Dr. Steven Jaksha, D.M.D, Zelmin's Resident Bad Breath Expert, sheds light on the hidden dangers of reusing face masks.

"Facemasks are intended as single-use medical devices disposed of between patients," explains Dr. Jaksha. "However, civilian facemask use often deviates from this guideline, with 99% of users reusing masks multiple times." This common practice poses a significant problem – the mask and its user become potential disease vectors, transmitting bacteria and viruses every time the mask is touched or reused.

One of the main concerns associated with reusing face masks is the contamination of oral bacteria. "Oral bacteria are aerosolized and contaminate the inside of the mask with each breath," notes Dr. Jaksha. "This can lead to a buildup of excessive bacteria, resulting in what has been termed 'mask bad breath.'"

A study published in Scientific Reports highlighted the presence of fungal and bacterial microbial colonies attached to face masks, further underscoring the risk of contamination (Medical & Life Sciences News, 2022). This contamination not only affects the mask itself but also poses a potential threat to the wearer's oral health.

"Viruses or germs residing in unwashed or unclean masks can possibly cause sore throats," warns Dr. Jaksha, citing information from the Cleveland Clinic in 2021. "Repeatedly wearing a dirty mask can lead to breathing in bacteria or viruses trapped in the mask, which can exacerbate symptoms such as sore throat and bad breath."

Healthline also emphasizes the correlation between sore throat (pharyngitis) and bad breath, highlighting how these symptoms can co-occur (Healthline, 2023). To mitigate the risks associated with reusing face masks, Dr. Jaksha recommends using a new mask for each use and avoiding the temptation to reuse masks multiple times.

"Allowing the mouth to 'breathe' by using a new mask for each use can significantly reduce the risk of bacterial contamination and 'mask bad breath,'" advises Dr. Jaksha. But even so - bad breath can still catch you by surprise when you find yourself wearing a face mask for a prolonged period of time! In those moments, reach for a solution like Zelmin's to help fight bad breath at the source...instead of just MASKING it. By prioritizing proper mask hygiene and usage, we can help protect both our oral health and overall well-being.

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