Everything You Didn’t Know About Your Mouth In The Time Of COVID
Featuring Dr. Kathleen Mullaney DDS FAGD
Story by Kellie Gunderman
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Am I overweight? Is my blood pressure too high? Why is my hair thinning out? Can I really get my omega-3s from this salmon? Why do these migraines keep attacking me!? Is that a lump on my breast or a swollen lymph node? Us ladies are constantly asking ourselves questions about our health. We dissect everything we put into our body, monitor every single step we take and never miss a women’s wellness check. But why is that annual pap smear or staring at that Fitbit so much more important than a visit to our dentist?
Let’s pause, because I know you’re rolling your eyes right now. You’re thinking, “Is she really going to compare obesity or breast cancer to a simple cavity?”
To answer your question: yes. Yes, I am!
Now that I have your attention, let’s start with the number one killer of women in the United States. Do you know what it is?
Ok…you’re thinking, “What does that have to do with getting your teeth cleaned?” I am so glad you asked! Did you know that there is a direct correlation between periodontal disease and—you guessed it—heart disease? Fact.
What’s the link? In a single word: inflammation. Dr. Kathleen Mullaney DDS FAGD told me during a recent chat that neglecting your oral health can lead to gum disease and gum disease causes inflammation. Studies have shown that bacteria in gum disease can travel throughout the body, triggering inflammation in the heart’s vessels and infection in the heart valves.
This puts you at a greater risk for a heart attack or even a stroke. Let’s not forget that bacteria and other toxins that hide deep down in your gums can spread to other parts of the body. I bet you didn’t see that coming on your Peloton screen!
Now that we know that our oral health should be bumped up on the ‘Women’s Health’ checklist, let’s talk about COVID-19 and your stylish new masks. Sharp turn, I know. But you’ll catch my drift in just a sec. When the pandemic came knocking on my front door, I—like everyone else—had to find a good mask. Some are more basic than others (mine, in fact, is bedazzled…courtesy of Queen Bee Designs) but they all serve the same purpose: to protect us and those around us from coronavirus.
But that may not be all our new favorite accessories are doing to help us. How? Well, let me ask you one question:
Got bad breath?
“A lot of patients who have missed 2 cycles to a year’s worth of dental cleanings and exams due to COVID-19 are starting to come in with concerns about their bad breath. They’re recirculating so much air beneath their mask that it’s very noticeable. That bad breath, in many cases, is an indicator of gum disease, gingivitis or periodontal disease.” – Dr. Kathleen Mullaney
If you’re feeling a bit shocked that staying home and canceling your dental appointments to keep yourself safe was actually putting your oral and overall health in danger, you’re not alone. Many of Dr. Mullaney’s patients have been coming into her office looking worse than they did pre-pandemic.
Is “mask face” causing our dental issues? The jury is still out. But we do know that COVID-19 has resulted in record-breaking anxiety diagnosis. Stress causes teeth grinding, teeth grinding causes inflammation and…we’re back to heart disease—the number one killer of women in America.
But despite all of this, Dr. Mullaney doesn’t want you to worry or feel judged when you come into her office. “We understand. Many people have gotten off track with COVID, but come in. Get a good checkup. Get a good baseline and let’s reset your periodontal health.”
And don’t tell the doc that you don’t have the time — as you read this from your desk at work…er…your living room couch?
In all seriousness, protecting your heart health through your oral health is important stuff. Do you know what else is important? Your smile.
As adults, the idea of straightening our teeth can be really daunting. What will people think? What will they say? One upside to everyone wearing a mask everywhere is that no one will be able to see them.
“Many of our patients are discovering that they can benefit from mask wearing.. They can create the smile of their dreams with Invisalign, veneers, brightening, whitening or a combination of treatments. People want privacy and masks allow them to do that,” Dr. Mullaney told us.
Now that you have all of the facts, who’s ready to make their dental appointment?