Oral Health during Cold Season: problems & care tips

It’s the time of year when everyone around you starts coughing and sniffling. Once you finally get sick, your teeth may not be on the top of your mind. But having a cold or flu can affect your mouth. Here’s what you can do to keep your teeth healthy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults get two to three colds per year on average, each lasting between seven and 10 days. It’s important to know how to care for yourself properly so you can ease symptoms and avoid cold complications. If you want to feel better fast, you should take steps to safeguard your mouth.

1. Think about replacing your toothpaste, especially if the tube is shared with different family members. Dirty fingers or a dirty brush could pass harmful microbes to the rim of the rube, which could cause cross-contamination. In addition, remember to not cover your toothbrush or store it in a closed container. This promotes the growth of microorganisms.

2. You also probably don’t 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. But if you’re still in doubt, throw it out.

3. If you are having a stomach flu with vomiting, rinse with water. Do not brush your teeth immediately after, wait at least an hour. Brushing after the acidic challenge of stomach acid will accelerate enamel tissue damage.

4. Stay hydrated. Drink as much water as possible to stimulate saliva flow and reduce dry mouth. Alleviating dry mouth is important because excess dryness promotes the growth of bacteria, increasing your chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease. Plus, it makes it harder to chew, swallow and get your nutrients, which you need in order to heal. In addition, certain medications you may be taking, such as decongestants and antihistamines, can reduce saliva flow.

5. Gargle with salt water. Dissolve a tablespoon of salt water 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.

6. Sugar-free medication. 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.

When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of your body is your main priority, including your mouth. Sometimes, just brushing your teeth when you aren’t feeling well is enough to make you feel better, at least for a short while.