What do you do to feel better when you come down with a cold or flu? Most of us have a favorite over the counter medicine or a comforting drink we like to sip on when we’re feeling under the weather. Unfortunately, some of the remedies you may be using to ease your symptoms can have a negative effect on your teeth. Here are a few flu season tips from a Lake in the Hills dentist to help you protect your smile when you’re coping with your winter bug.
Don’t Let Decongestants Dry You Out
Nasal decongestants can help you breathe easier, but one of their most common side effects is dry mouth. When your mouth doesn’t have enough saliva in it to rinse away food particles and bacteria, you’re at an increased risk of tooth decay. Therefore, when you’re using a decongestant, you should drink plenty of water. To encourage saliva production, you can chew on sugar-free gum or suck on a sugar-free throat lozenge or cough drop.
Say No to Excessive Sugar
Standard throat lozenges, cough drops, and liquid cold medications may contain a high amount of sugar. The sweet stuff interacts with bacteria in your mouth, leading to plaque production and an increased risk of damage to your smile. It’s best to choose sugar-free remedies.
If you do use a medication with sugar in it, be sure to rinse your mouth out afterward. Also, don’t down cold medication and go to bed right away. Wait about 30 minutes, and then brush your teeth before you retire for the evening. You don’t want the sugar to linger on your teeth all night.
Watch Your Acid Intake
Vitamin C is great for boosting the immune system, so you might be downing some orange juice when you’re ill. Or, if your stomach is upset, you might use ginger ale or lemon-lime soda to help it settle down. Black tea with honey might also be comforting. Sodas, fruit juices, and sweetened tea are full of sugar. Even if you choose drinks that are low in sugar (or sugar-free), you’re still exposing your teeth to acids. Acid can soften the tooth enamel and even cause erosion over time.
It’s best not to nurse an acidic drink throughout the day. Rather, finish it relatively quickly, wait for 30 minutes to an hour, and then brush your teeth. Doing so will minimize the acid’s opportunity to harm your smile.
Being sick is no fun — and it can be even worse if you inadvertently damage your teeth while you’re trying to power through your illness. Hopefully, the above tips will help both your body and your smile survive this cold and flu season unscathed.
About the Author
Dr. Tim Stirneman earned his dental degree from Creighton University Dental School more than 26 years ago. He is proud to offer preventive, restorative, and cosmetic services to the folks in our community. If you would like more information on how to safeguard your smile this cold and flu season, contact our office at 847-854-7645.