5 ways to care for your mouth during cold, flu season

We’re at the peak of flu season and one thing helps Dr. Gene Romo, an ADA dentist, feel a little more like himself when he’s feeling under the weather: brushing his teeth.

“My mouth feels clean, and in a way, I feel like my health is starting to improve,” he said.

When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of your body is the top priority — and that includes your mouth, according to MouthHealthy.org, the ADA’s consumer website.

“It’s important to take care of your dental health all year round, but especially when you’re sick,” Dr. Romo said.

Here are some simple ways to care for your dental health when you’re not feeling well:

·      Practice good hygiene: Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and don’t forget to keep your dental and toothbrush hygiene as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. That means don’t share your toothbrush anytime, but especially when you are sick.

·      Choose sugar-free cough drops: Read the label of cough drops and avoid those with ingredients like fructose or corn syrup. The longer you keep a sugary cough drop in your mouth, the more time cavity-causing bacteria has to feast on that sugar, which produces the acid that can leave holes in your teeth.

·      Swish and spit after vomiting: If you’re vomiting, you might be tempted to brush your teeth right away. Dr. Romo said you should swish with water or diluted mouth rinse first — then brush about 30 minutes later. “When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them,” he said. “If you brush too soon, you’re just rubbing that acid all over the hard outer shell of your teeth.” 

·      Stay hydrated to avoid dry mouth: One reason to drink plenty of fluids when you’re sick is to prevent dry mouth, which are sometimes caused by medications for a cold or flu. Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable but can also put you at greater risk for cavities.

·      Choose the right fluids: Dr. Romo said there’s one beverage that always the best: water. When replenishing electrolytes, drink sports drinks in moderation and opt for a sugar-free version. In addition, if you drink tea, try not to add sugar or lemon if you can avoid it. Sugar can help fuel cavity-causing bacteria, and lemon is acidic.

© 2018 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

Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.