Fall is upon us which means cooler days, colorful leaves, lots of pumpkin spice, an extra hour of sleep and the dreaded cold and flu season.
When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of your body is your top priority – and that includes your mouth.
Here are some simple ways to care for your dental health when you’re not feeling well:
Practice Good Hygiene
According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours.
The number one rule is not to share your toothbrush anytime, but especially when you are sick.
You probably will not need to replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick. Unless your immune system is severely compromised, the chances of infecting yourself again are very low. However, if you are still in doubt, throw it out; especially if you’ve had your toothbrush for 3-4 months, then it’s time to replace it anyway.
Choose Sugar-Free Cough Drops
Read the label before you pick up a bag at the drug store with an eye to avoid ingredients like fructose or corn syrup. Many cough drops contain sugar, and it is like sucking on candy. Sugar is a culprit when it comes to cavities. The longer you keep a sugary cough drip 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
One unfortunate side effect of the stomach flu, among other illnesses, is vomiting. You might be tempted to brush your teeth right away, but it is actually better to wait. When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with 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 1 tsp. baking soda to help wash the acid away. Brush about 30 minutes later.
Stay Hydrated to Avoid Dry Mouth
When you’re sick, you need plenty of fluids for many reasons. One is to prevent dry mouth. Not only is it uncomfortable- dry mouth can also put you at greater risk for cavities. The medications you might be taking for a cold or flu – such as antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers – can also dry out your mouth, so drink plenty of water and suck on sugarless cough drops, throat lozenges or candies to keep that saliva flowing.
You might also want something to warm you up like tea. Try not to add sugar or lemon if you can avoid it. Sugar helps to fuel cavity-causing bacteria and lemon is acidic.
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