With winter just around the corner, cold and flu season is upon us. With all of the discomfort, pain, and inconvenience that these illnesses bring, it’s easy to forget how they can affect our oral health. However, how we treat our teeth and mouth at these times is crucial to keeping our bodies healthy. Here are a few tips for maintaining good oral health during this season to help prevent illness or recover more quickly.
If you have the flu or a cold, your body contains lots of germs that could infect others. It is particularly important to wash your hands and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. When it comes to oral health, your approach should be about the same: brush regularly and use an antiseptic mouthwash. Don’t forget that viruses can remain on surfaces for up to 3 days in some cases, so never share oral hygiene products. When you are over your illness, toss your toothbrush and get a new one. This should be done once a month, regardless of your health status.
There are lots of substances that can help us feel better when we are sick. Cough drops and throat lozenges can be an excellent help for soothing soreness. However, these drops are made mostly from sugar, just like regular hard candy. Eating several in succession means that your teeth are essentially soaking in sugar, which will cause them to rot quickly due to the acid created by mouth bacteria that feed on the sugar. Instead, opt for sugar-free varieties and limit your consumption.
You should also be careful with your fluids. It’s critical to stay hydrated during an illness, so make sure to get lots of fluids. The best option, of course, is plain water. It hydrates and will not harm your teeth. Sports drinks, however, are made of mostly sugar and are best avoided. Don’t be mislead by the “electrolytes” hype – you can get the same rehydrating effect by adding a little salt to some water.
If you need something other than water, choose unsweetened tea and leave out the lemon as well. A sugar-free soda can be used if you need something to settle your stomach.
The stomach flu or other stomach bugs can create the nasty side effect of vomiting. While it may seem a good idea to immediately brush your teeth after being sick, this can actually harm your teeth. When you vomit, you bring up acids from your stomach, which can soften tooth enamel. Brushing right away means that you are more likely to lose some of that protective layering on your teeth. Instead, swish with lukewarm water mixed with a bit of baking soda, then spit. This will help remove the acid from your teeth and help with any unwanted aftertaste. Brush your teeth at least 30 minutes after.
Taking care of your oral health while you are sick may seem like just another thing you need to think about, and it can be hard when you are in pain or experiencing discomfort. To prevent the need for this, take the time now to prepare yourself for the winter and focus on staying warm, dry, and cozy. A cup of tea and a good book go a long way to make you feel better! If you do come down with a cold, don’t neglect your mouth. By doing so, extra bacteria can accumulate and your recovery period may be longer. For more tips and professional advice, feel free to contact your dentist at Lindner Dental Associates!