SASKATOON -- While wearing masks has become a regular part of going out in public, there’s a concern emerging about the prolonged use of the face coverings on dental health.

Keith Da Silva is an assistant professor in pediatric dentistry at the College of Dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan. He says they’re seeing a phenomenon called “mask mouth.”

“We tend to breathe through our mouth a bit more, we take more rapid and shallower breaths, and this has an effect of drying out the mouth. So we’re producing a little less saliva and we need the saliva to help clear out food debris and neutralize the pH balance in our mouth,” Da Silva told CTV News.

This results in more cavities and gingivitis or gum disease in both adults and children.

Da Silva says masks are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19 so we have to implement other safeguards to ensure dental health during this time.

Those include: visiting your dentist regularly, drinking water throughout the day to eliminate drying of the mouth, regular brushing and flossing and don’t let problems go unchecked.

At the start of the pandemic, dental offices were closed for regular checkups and that gap in care caused some issues to worsen for some patients.

Now, Da Silva says, most dental offices are back to regular volume as patients feel comfortable having check-ups.