COMING DOWN WITH the flu is never any fun, but it’s still no time to let up on your oral hygiene routine. The same applies if you get a cold. With the height of flu and cold season upon us, as your trusted South San Francisco dentist, we thought this was a good time to share some tips for maintaining good oral health through one of these common illnesses.
A Stuffy Nose Leads to Dry Mouth
If you can’t breathe out of your nose because of congestion, then obviously your only option is to breathe through your mouth. That’s never great for oral health, because it tends to dry things out. We need our saliva to fend off bacteria and wash away food debris, and dry mouth significantly increases the risk of tooth decay.
Sometimes the medicine we take to help with a cold or the flu (such as antihistamines, pain relievers, and decongestants) can actually make the dry mouth situation worse. Keep this in mind and make sure to drink plenty of water and, when possible, breathe through your nose.
Congestion and Bad Breath
Have you ever noticed a snotty taste when you have a cold? Well, it can also be a smell, in the form of bad breath. This happens because of post nasal drip, or excess mucus leaking down the back of the throat. It’s easy for bacteria to multiply in this situation, which leads to unpleasant smells — yet another reason why brushing and flossing are just as important when we’re sick!
Cut Down on Sugar
The bad bacteria in our mouths love when we eat sugar, even when it comes in the form of a cough drop. Sucking on a sugary cough drop is just as bad for our teeth as sucking on a hard candy, which is why it’s a good idea to choose a sugar free cough drop for your throat-soothing needs.
Rehydrate with Water
We tend to reach for beverages like orange juice, sports drinks, or sweetened tea when we’re sick. If we do, we should remember to rinse with water afterward to wash away any leftover sugar, but we should really be drinking water more than anything else. It will make up for the fluids lost due to flu or cold symptoms, and particularly if it’s the stomach flu, it helps to protect the teeth from the damaging effects of stomach acid from frequent vomiting.
Brushing and Flossing Can Help You Feel Better
As well as you can while sick, try to remember to brush and floss as usual. It’s not just about the comfort of maintaining some part of your normal routine, or about getting some small sense of accomplishment out of it — no, brushing and flossing can actually make you feel better!
Keeping your mouth as clean as possible is a real boost to your overall sense of well-being. A clean mouth helps you feel rejuvenated and refreshed, so don’t let the simple habits of brushing and flossing fall by the wayside while you’re sick. Getting rid of oral bacteria can only help while you’re fighting a cold or the flu!
Reschedule Your Appointments
If you have a dental appointment, please contact us immediately to reschedule. To protect the health of other patients and our staff, any patient who arrives to their appointment showing signs or symptoms of fever or lower respiratory illness (cough or shortness of breath) will have their appointment rescheduled.
Protect your friends, family and coworkers, especially vulnerable children, older adults and those with immuno-deficiencies by isolating yourself while sick. If you must leave home, take steps to stop the spread of your illness.
Wash your hands regularly: Use soap for at least 10-20 seconds or a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol. Do it after your sneeze or cough, use the bathroom, before you eat and before you touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Cover your cough: Use a tissue, handkerchief or the back of your sleeve to cover a cough or sneeze. In some cases, you may need to wear a mask to protect others.
Have Questions About Oral Health?
If there’s anything else you’d like to know about the relationship between oral health and common illnesses like colds or the flu, just give us a call! We want all of our patients to have the tools they need to stay as healthy as possible in addition to specifically having good oral health.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.