As cold and flu season continues to run its course, practicing healthy dental habits is of utmost importance. American Dental Association dentist Dr. Gene Romo says that, when he’s feeling under the weather, there is one thing that always makes him feel a little less sick. “Brushing my teeth when I’m sick actually makes me feel better,” says Dr. Romo. “My mouth feels clean, and in a way, I feel like my health is starting to improve.”
When you’re hit with a nasty cold or a bout of the flu, caring for your body is your first concern—and that includes your mouth, too. Dr. Romo stresses that while it’s always important to practice good oral hygiene, taking care of your dental needs is especially crucial while you’re sick.
Luckily, there are some very simple ways to maintain good oral health when you’re under the weather during cold and flu season:
1. Practice Good General and Oral Hygiene
We all know that it is important to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough to prevent spreading bacteria, but we often forget about the ways to avoid the already present germs. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that bacteria can remain living on moist surfaces for up to 72 hours. This means your toothbrush is at risk of harboring flu-causing germs.
“The number one rule is to not share your toothbrush anytime,” says Dr. Romo, “but especially when you are sick.”
While it’s not necessary to replace your toothbrush after having the flu, you might want to consider getting a new brush if you have a weaker immune system or a little more often during cold and flu season. “If you’re still in doubt, throw it out. Especially if you’ve had your toothbrush for 3-4 months, when it’s time to replace it anyway.”
2. Opt for Sugar-Free Cough Drops
If you’re battling a cold, you may be relying on cough drops to keep your sore throat and disruptive coughs at bay. Before you choose a brand, read the nutrition facts on the bag and look out for ingredients like fructose or corn syrup.
“Many cough drops contain sugar, and it is like sucking on candy,” Dr. Romo warns. “Sugar is a culprit when it comes to cavities.” As long as you keep a sugary cough drop in your mouth, you are fueling the cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth, which produces the acid that erodes your teeth.
Make sure that your cough drops indicate that they are sugar-free. If you are unsure, ask a pharmacist what they recommend.
3. Don’t Brush; Swish and Spit Instead
One of the worst effects of the stomach flu and other illnesses is vomiting. While you may be tempted to immediately brush your teeth after you throw up, according to Dr. Romo, it’s actually more beneficial to wait.
“When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them,” says Dr. Romo. “If you brush your teeth too soon, you’re just rubbing that acid all over the hard outer shell of your teeth.”
Instead of brushing, swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to help wash the acid away. Spit, and then after 30 minutes you can brush your teeth.
4. Stay Hydrated to Avoid Dry Mouth
If you have a stuffy nose or a cold, you will breathe through your mouth more than you usually do, which can dry it out. Certain medicine like antihistamines tend to leave your mouth drier, too. Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable; it’s also bad for your teeth. Without proper saliva flow, sugar and other irritants are allowed to stick around in the mouth and cause cavities.
To avoid this, ensure that you stay hydrated. Suck on sugar-free cough drops or lozenges to keep saliva flowing, and drink plenty of water!
5. Steer Clear of the Wrong Fluids
Ginger ale, orange juice and soda are common beverages of choice when battling the flu or a cold. But when it comes to the health of your body and your mouth, one drink is always the best. “The safest thing to drink is water,” Dr. Romo says.
Sports drinks, tea, and juices are often recommended to help replenish electrolytes and vitamins. Make sure that you consume these in moderation, as they contain sugars and acids that harm your teeth. Don’t make them a habit once you’ve recovered, either! Water is always the best way to keep healthy, even when you’re not sick, so it’s important to stay hydrated year round.
Call and Schedule a Consultation in Jackson, MS!
Practicing good dental habits is essential during cold and flu season. Regular brushing and flossing, avoiding sugar and acid and proper toothbrush etiquette will help keep you healthy when you’re sick. But make sure you maintain good oral health year round. Visit the dentist twice per year to ensure that your teeth and mouth stay in good shape. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Tharp and Dr. Klaus at Tharp & Klaus Dental Clinic today!