As we have begun this new year, we are also embarking on a new cold and flu season.
When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of your body is your top priority—and that includes your mouth. It’s important to take care of your dental health all year round, but especially when you’re sick – remember the mouth is a major gateway to your body and how well you take care of it affects your body’s health. Regular cleanings have been shown to reduce the risk of many conditions, including Pnemonia, Heart Disease and even Breast Cancer.
When you’re sick, you know to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Don’t forget to keep up your dental and toothbrush hygiene as well. According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. The number one rule is not to share your toothbrush anytime, but especially when you are sick. Many dentists recommend discarding your toothbrush after your illness, even though the chances of reinfection are low.
Choose Sugar free cough drops. Checking the labels before you buy will help you avoid cavities from keeping lozenges in your mouth for prolong periods of time, as this is just as bad as sucking on candy. Sugar is a major culprit in the development of cavities. The longer you keep a sugary cough drop in your mouth, the more time cavity-causing bacteria has to feast on that sugar, which produces the acid that can leave holes in your teeth.
Nausea and Vomiting are another unpleasant condition included with flu symptoms. You may be tempted to brush your teeth right away, but it is better to wait. When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them – if you brush immediately, you are helping the acid erode your tooth enamel. Instead, swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water and 1 tsp. baking soda to help wash the acid away. Spit, and brush about 30 minutes later.
It’s always important to stay hydrated when you are ill. When you’re sick, you need plenty of fluids for many reasons. One is to prevent dry mouth. Not only is it uncomfortable—dry mouth can also put you at greater risk for cavities. The medications you might be taking for a cold or flu—such as antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers—can also dry out your mouth, so drink plenty of water and suck on sugarless cough drops, throat lozenges or candies to keep that saliva flowing.
Choosing the right fluids are also important in maintaining hydration. Electrolyte replacement sports drinks can be helpful, but it’s best to drink them in moderation because of their sugar content. Again, a sugar free version or other electrolyte replacement drink without sugar is a better option. If you are seeking something warm, tea is a good beverage, but again be careful of added sugar, and even lemon, whose acids can erode tooth enamel.
Once you have gotten over the illness, be sure to keep your oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing twice daily, and keeping your 6 month check-ups and cleaning appointments to maintain your smile.