You wash your hands regularly, keep your home clean, and are careful about how much contact you have with people who are sniffling and sneezing. Despite your best efforts, however, you may find yourself lounging on the sofa with a box of tissues at your side and some cold and flu medicine in your system. If you fall victim to a seasonal illness this year, it is important that take steps to ensure that your downtime doesn’t damage your smile. Here are a few friendly preventive oral care tips from your dentist.
Don’t Stop Brushing
No matter how much you want to skip your daily brushing and flossing routine, you should stick to good oral hygiene habits. Letting bacteria and food particles accumulate in your oral cavity when you’re ill will only make you feel worse, and it will increase your long-term risk of developing tooth decay.
Brushing is also pivotal because so many cold and flu medications contain sugar to make them more palatable. It’s best to choose medicines that are sweetened with xylitol or other tooth-friendly substances. However, if you do use one with sugar, clean your mouth shortly after you take your dose so you don’t risk that the sweet stuff will damage your teeth.
Be Careful After Vomiting
Vomiting makes your mouth feel gross, and you might be tempted to brush your teeth right away. However, it is best to simply rinse your mouth with water and wait about half an hour before you brush. The waiting period lets your enamel re-harden after being exposed to the acids in your vomit.
When you’re sick, your body requires extra fluids to fight the infection. If your liquid intake is inadequate, your mouth could easily dry out. If your nose is congested and you have to breathe through your mouth, the problem could become even worse. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat hydrating foods, like fruits, veggies, and chicken soup.
Gargle with Salt Water
Mix about a tablespoon of salt with warm water. Gargle and spit until you empty out the glass. Doing so will fight the bacteria in your mouth and help freshen your breath. It can also reduce swelling and irritation in your throat and loosen mucus buildup.
Treat Yourself to a New Toothbrush
After you’ve recovered from your cold or flu, toss out your old toothbrush even if the bristles seem to still be in good condition. Although the risk of re-infecting yourself is low unless you have a severely compromised immune system, it’s best to play things safe. Getting rid of the contaminated brush is especially important if someone else in your household might accidentally use it; the flu virus can stay alive on moist surfaces for up to 72 hours.
Being sick is a bummer, but you don’t have to let your illness endanger your oral health. Use the above tips to preserve your smile through this cold and flu season.
About the Author
Dr. Tim Stirneman is a general and preventive dentist in Lake in the Hills who deeply cares for his patients’ oral and overall health. If you have questions about how to keep your smile in the best shape possible throughout this cold and flu season, contact our office at 847-854-7645.