Cold & Flu can also have adverse effects on your teeth. Keep your oral health in good shape with the following tips.
14 December 2017| Last updated on 26 March 2018
The change of the seasons is upon us, and with it comes the usual run of colds, flu and general bugs. Most of us will pick up some form of sneeze or sniffle during this time, and it can feel pretty miserable. In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, grown-ups catch two to three colds per year.
Symptoms include coughing, a sore throat, congestion, fever, aching and tiredness, and - if you are particularly unlucky - vomiting and diarrhea.
Your dental health
All in all, flu season can be rather unpleasant, and the bad news is that it can have a negative effect on your teeth and gums too. However, with a little care and attention, your dental health needn’t suffer. Here are our tips for keeping teeth healthy when you’re feeling sick.
It’s essential to stay hydrated when you’re feeling ill. Not only does this help clear your system of mucus and nasties, it’s also good for your mouth and teeth by helping refuel your salivary glands. Saliva is essential for helping keep teeth clean – it neutralizes the acid formed from sugary foods, and it contains many nutrients like calcium which actually help your teeth repair any damage.
If you take medications like decongestants, or you’re just struggling to breathe through your nose, it’s more likely you could develop dry mouth. This is a condition where there isn’t enough saliva in the mouth – you might experience a very sore throat or difficulty talking or swallowing – and it’s particularly dangerous for teeth.
Without the necessary saliva, bacteria can take hold and tooth decay is more likely to occur. To avoid this risk, it’s best to drink lots of water (avoid sugary juices or isotonic sports drinks). Drinking regular sips will help you stay hydrated without too much hassle.
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If you are coughing and croaking all over the place, then lozenges and cough drops can be very soothing. However, bear in mind that these candies are often just that – sweet treats packed with sugar in the form of sucrose, glucose or corn syrup.
While sucking on one of these helps a tickly, scratchy throat, the sugar in contact with teeth is bad news, as bacteria uses the sugar to produce acid that attacks tooth enamel. For the same reason, it’s best to go easy on the honey and lemon juice when making yourself hot or cold drinks.
When you get really congested and blocked up, you might experience pain around your jaws and teeth. Don’t panic – it’s unlikely you have a real toothache. Your sinuses are very close to upper teeth, so you might have a touch of sinusitis.
The best way to tell is to identify if the pain is just around one tooth, or a whole area – the latter means it’s probably just your cold. If this is accompanied by a loss of taste or a feeling of pressure in the area, then it’s almost certain. Your pharmacist can supply you with over-the-counter medications, or if you are really suffering, you may need to visit your doctor.
If you are unlucky enough to have a vomiting bug then be careful about brushing your teeth. While it’s very important to keep up your dental routine (this can help you feel better also), if you brush your teeth after being sick, it could cause more damage.
This is because stomach acid from being sick weakens your tooth enamel, meaning if you brush straight away – you are brushing off the enamel. Instead rinse and gargle with water to clean your mouth, and brush your teeth later on.
To avoid catching bugs in the first place, it’s a good idea to have a few hygienic habits. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Don’t share toothbrushes with anyone (this is a good practice whether you have a cold or not!) and regularly clean germ-ridden surfaces like computer keyboards and door handles. Some people swear by gargling salt water, and sometimes this can relieve a sore throat too.
And to best look after your teeth, you should have a check-up at a dentist like Drs. Nicolas & Asp at least every six months.