Dental health tips for cold and flu season
Incisive BiteSunday, March 17, 2019
by Dr Sharon Robinson
IT is the time of year when everyone around you starts coughing and sniffling.
Once you finally get sick, your teeth may not be on your mind; but having a cold or flu can affect your mouth.
Here's what you can do to keep your teeth healthy.
When you're sick, you know to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Don't forget to keep up your dental and toothbrush hygiene as well.
It can be exhausting, but make sure to brush and floss. Remember to spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth at least twice a day.
The flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. The number one rule is not to share your toothbrush at anytime, but especially when you are sick.
Drink lots of liquid
Staying hydrated is important when you're sick, because your body needs extra fluid to fight the infection. Dry mouth is a common problem, especially when you can't breathe easily through your nose.
Since saliva is a key player in controlling cavity-causing bacteria, dry mouth can increase your chances of cavities and gum disease. Do yourself a favour by loading up on water, soup and juice.
Toss your toothbrush
Once you start feeling better, replace your toothbrush. Your old toothbrush can harbour bacteria and easily reinfect you.
Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in a glass of warm water. Gargle and spit until the water is gone. This helps cut down on harmful bacteria in your mouth and throat, reducing the effects of bad breath and plaque.
Choose sugar-free medication
Many cough drops and syrups are packed with sugar to sweeten the dose. Even paired with medication, this sugar can cause tooth decay and harm your gums. Shop smart by looking for medicine that's sweetened with sugar substitutes like xylitol or sucralose.
If you can't find sugar-free alternatives, make sure to brush or rinse afterwards. If your medicine is acidic wait at least half an hour before brushing, to let your enamel harden.
Swish and spit
One unfortunate side effect of a stomach flu, among other illnesses, is vomiting.
You might be tempted to brush your teeth right away, but it's better to wait. When you vomit, stomach acids are meeting your teeth and coating them. If you brush too soon, you're just rubbing that acid all over the hard outer shell of your teeth.
Instead, swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse, or a mixture of water and one teaspoon baking soda to help wash the acid away. Spit and brush about 30 minutes later.