Healing from the flu? Don’t forget to take care of your mouth

Influenza can hit home year-round, but most of the time activity peaks between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ADA in January released information for patients to keep in mind when caring for themselves when they're ill.

"It's important to take care of your dental health all year round, but especially when you're sick," said Dr. Gene Romo, an ADA dentist, in an article on the ADA website, MouthHealthy.org. The flu virus spreads easily via droplets made when people cough, sneeze or talk, according to the CDC. But the virus can also live on most surfaces, like a toothbrush, for 72 hours, according to the MouthHealthy.org.

Dr. Romo said "the number one rule is not to share your toothbrush anytime, but especially when you are sick."

One flu symptom, vomiting, is more common in children than adults, according to the CDC. Dr. Romo suggests fighting the urge to brush teeth right after vomiting, and instead to swish water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water with baking soda to wash stomach acid away. "When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them," Dr. Romo said. "If you brush too soon, you're just rubbing that acid all over the hard outer shell of your teeth."

To combat cough or sore throat associated with the flu while also caring for your teeth, choose sugar-free cough drops. Otherwise, Dr. Romo said, "it is like sucking on candy." The longer one keeps a sugary cough drop in his or her mouth, the more time cavity-causing bacteria have to feast on the sugar, which produces acid that can leave holes in your teeth, according to MouthHealthy.org.

For more information about the flu, including how it spreads, symptoms, complications and prevention and treatment information, visit cdc.gov/flu.

For other tips on caring for oral health while ill, in addition to information on keeping a clean toothbrush and information about dental emergencies, visit MouthHealthy.org.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

More Articles You May Like


Tobacco's greatest threat to your health may be its association with oral cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that:

  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

  • About 37 percent of patients who continue to smoke after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx. While only 6 percent of people who quit smoking will develop these secondary cancers.

  • Smokeless tobacco has been linked to cancers of the cheek, gums and inner surface of the lips. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of these cancers by nearly 50 times.7