As the weather starts to turn and we start looking forward to the holidays ahead, there’s one more “season” upon us too: cold and flu season. Taking care of your body while under the weather is a top priority, and this includes your oral health.
“Brushing my teeth when I’m sick actually makes me feel better,” said ADA dentist Dr. Gene Romo. “My mouth feels clean and in a way, I feel like my health is starting to improve.”
Here are some simple ways to care for your dental health when you’re not feeling well, from the dental experts at MouthHealthy.org.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
In addition to covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, don’t forget to keep up with your brushing and flossing. According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for up to 72 hours.
“The number one rule is not to share your toothbrush anytime, but especially when you are sick,” Dr. Romo said.
Replacing your toothbrush after you’ve been sick isn’t necessary though. The only exception is if your immune system is severely compromised, and then the change of reinfecting yourself increases.
Choose Sugar-Free Cough Drops
“Many cough drops contain sugar, and it is like sucking on candy,” said Dr. Romo. “Sugar is a culprit when it comes to cavities.”
The longer you keep a sugary cough drop in your mouth, the more time bacteria has to wreak havoc. Be sure to read the label when shopping for a bag of cough drops at the drug store.
Swish and Spit After Vomiting
Unfortunately, the flu is often accompanied by vomiting. While you might be tempted to brush your teeth right away, Dr. Romo recommends waiting.
“When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them,” he said. “If you brush too soon, you’re just rubbing that acid all over the hard outer shell of your teeth.”
The better plan is to swish with water or a diluted mouth rinse to help wash the acid away. Brushing should be safe about 30 minutes later.
Stay Hydrated to Avoid Dry Mouth
Fluids are extremely important when you’re sick. Dry mouth is just one of the issues you need to avoid. Not only is it uncomfortable, it can also put you at risk for developing cavities. Many medications, like antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers, can dry out your mouth, so drink plenty of water and suck on sugarless cough drops to keep saliva flowing.
Choose the Right Fluids
When it comes to your mouth and body, there’s one choice that tops them all.
“The safest thing to drink is water,” claimed Dr. Romo. “Sports drinks might be recommended to replenish electrolytes when you’re sick, but drink them in moderation and don’t make them a habit after you’ve recovered because unless they are a sugar free version, they contain a lot of sugar.”
A warm beverage is usually welcome when you’re not feeling well. “When you have a cold or the flu, you may want something comforting to get through it, like tea,” Dr. Romo added. “Try not to add sugar or leon if you can avoid it. Sugar helps to fuel cavity-causing bacteria, and lemon is acidic. It’s something to keep in mind once you’re feeling 100% again, as well.”