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.
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