By Dr. Heather Hradek
The temperatures have dropped, everyone is stuck inside, so cold and flu season has definitely hit as well. Even when you’re under the weather, keeping your mouth healthy is important to keep the rest of your body healthy! Here’s a few tips to keep in mind:
Everyone knows to cough or sneeze into your elbow (versus your hands that then touch lots of doorknobs and other various surfaces), but people don’t always think about other ways that we can help prevent sharing colds! According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours, so that includes your toothbrush and your bathroom counters. Never share your toothbrush, but particularly when you are sick. Make sure your toothbrush is covered from aerosol bacteria particles that swirl through the air this time of year. Although you don’t need to replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick unless you are severely immunocompromised, it’s probably not a bad idea, especially if it’s been over 3-4 months, it’s time to replace anyways.
Remember, if you are too sick to go to work or school, you’re too sick to come in for your dental appointment as well—please call to cancel versus sharing your germs with us! Although we will miss seeing you, we can stay healthy to keep helping our patients stay healthy, particularly those who are immunocompromised, such as the elderly or newborns that we see in our office frequently.
Choose Sugar-free Cough Drops and Cough Syrups
When you choose cough drops and cough syrups, the ingredients may not be the tastiest, so the companies try to cover it up with lots of sugars—often labeled as fructose or corn syrup on the list of ingredients. When you suck on those sugar-laden cough drops, it’s the same as sucking on candy. The longer you keep the cough drops in your mouth, the longer bacteria in your mouth have sugars to guzzle, producing acid, and wrecking your teeth. Rinsing your mouth with water after using the cough drop will help to rinse those sugars away to more quickly.
Drink More Water!
When you’re sick, fluids are so important for so many reasons. Many medications that you might be taking to treat symptoms of your cold or flu, such as decongestants, cough suppressants, antihistamines, or pain relievers, can also cause dry mouth, which will put you at a greater risk for cavities. Drinking more water will help keep your mouth comfortable and your saliva flowing.
There’s nothing worse than that taste in your mouth after throwing up, so you might want to run to the bathroom to scrub your teeth clean. Avoid that urge. Choose water instead. When you brush your teeth after throwing up, your healthy enamel is scrubbed away more easily due to being softened by the stomach acid. You’re better off swishing with water, diluted mouthrinse, or even a cup of water with 1 tsp of baking soda, which helps to neutralize the acidic environment caused by stomach acid. Wait at least 30 min before brushing.
When you’re feeling dehydrated, be careful when choosing sports drinks to replace your electrolytes. Not only are the full of sugar, they are extremely acidic as well. If you do drink them, try to keep them to a minimum, swish with water afterwards. Make sure to only drink them when you truly need them for the electrolytes and don’t make them a regular habit because sports drinks are one of our biggest offenders for causing cavities.
Wishing you health through the rest of this sneezy season!
Chesterton Family Dental is the general dentistry office of Dr. Mystie Pieters, Dr. Heather Hradek, and Dr. Robert Pieters located in Chesterton, Indiana providing dental care for the whole family!