As we start getting into the heart of cold and flu season, your family dentist in Lakewood understands that many patients tend to ignore their oral health while sick. Even though you may not feel like brushing and flossing when sniffling and sneezing, taking care of your body remains your top priority, and that includes your mouth.
While it’s important to take care of your oral health all year, it’s especially important when sick. Here are a few ways to care for your oral health when feeling under the weather.
Practice Quality Hygiene Habits
When you’re coughing and sneezing, you know the importance of covering your mouth. Don’t forget to maintain your dental and toothbrush hygiene as well.
The flu virus can live on moist surfaces for up to 72 hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This makes it incredibly important that you don’t share your toothbrush with anyone, especially when sick. Sharing a toothbrush – even with a significant other or child – is a great way to pass germs back and forth, making it more likely that one or both of you get sick more frequently.
You can also pass harmful oral bacteria between mouths by sharing a toothbrush. This can be especially problematic if one person shares a brush with another who doesn’t brush as frequently. The germs you eliminate by brushing and flossing regularly can be easily reintroduced into your mouth by sharing a toothbrush with someone who only occasionally takes care of their oral hygiene.
Fortunately, you don’t need to replace your toothbrush after overcoming an illness. Unless your immune system has become severely compromised, the chances you’ll reinfect yourself are extremely low.
Use Sugar-Free Cough Drops
Make sure to check the label before buying a brand of cough drops to avoid ingredients like corn syrup or fructose. In fact, many brands of cough drops contain such high levels of sugar that they’re like sucking on a piece of hard candy.
As your family dentist in Lakewood has explained, sugar is one of the primary causes of cavities. The longer you keep a sugary cough drop in your mouth, the more time harmful cavity-causing bacteria has to use that sugar to produce corrosive substances that can slowly destroy tooth enamel.
Rinse Thoroughly After Vomiting
One of the most unpleasant side effects of nasty viruses like the stomach flu is vomiting. While you might feel like brushing immediately after vomiting to remove the foul taste, you should actually wait.
When you vomit, stomach acids travel up through the esophagus and into the mouth, coming into contact with your teeth. If you brush too soon after vomiting, you’re basically spreading that stomach acid all over the surface of your teeth. Stomach acid is incredibly corrosive, so you could inadvertently harm the health of your teeth by brushing.
Instead of picking up your toothbrush, thoroughly rinse your mouth with water, or a mixture of water and a tablespoon of baking soda to help neutralize and remove stomach acid. Once you’ve rinsed, you can feel free to brush about 30 minutes later.
Avoid Dry Mouth by Staying Hydrated
When dealing with an illness, you need to stay fully hydrated for a number of reasons. One is to prevent dry mouth. Not only is suffering from dry mouth uncomfortable, the condition also places you at a higher risk for cavities. The medications you take to help fight your cold or flu – such as pain relievers, decongestants, or antihistamines – can also cause your mouth to dry out. Make sure to drink plenty of water and to suck on sugar-free cough drops to keep your saliva flowing.
Drink the Right Types of Fluids
Water always ranks as the best beverage to drink in terms of what’s best for your mouth and body. Sports drinks might be recommended to help you replenish electrolytes when sick, but drink them in moderation. Most sports drinks on the market contain nearly as much sugar as a bottle of soda, making them a less health alternative to drinking water.