When I am feeling under the weather, something that always helps me feel a little more like myself is to brush my teeth. Of course, I’m a dentist, and that is just me. There is a good reason for that. My mouth feels clean, and in a way, I feel like my health is starting to improve.
When you have a cold, the flu or Covid-19, taking care of your body is your top priority—and that includes your mouth. “It’s important to take care of your dental health all year round, but especially when you’re sick.
Here are some simple ways to care for your dental health when you’re not feeling well:
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
When you’re sick, you know to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Don’t forget to keep up your dental and toothbrush hygiene as well.
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 and especially when you are sick. It is important to disinfect your toothbrush in between each use. Simple way to do this is to dip it in hydrogen peroxide for 5 minutes after each use.
I recommend replacing your toothbrush after you’ve been sick. There is small possibility you can get re-infected with your toothbrush. If your tooth brush is over 3 months old, it’s time to replace in anyway.
Not all Cough Drops are the same.
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 drop 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. Choose cough drops that have xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sugar that helps prevents cavities. You may recognize other sugar used in sugarless products, such as mannitol and sorbitol. Xylitol is the sugar that shows the greatest promise for cavity prevention.
Swish and Spit After Vomiting
One unfortunate side effect of a stomach flu, among other illnesses, is vomiting. You might be tempted to brush your teeth right away, but it’s 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. Spit, and brush about 30 minutes later.
Medications can lead to 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.
Water, Water, Water
When it comes to your mouth and your body, one beverage is always best. The safest thing to drink is water. Sports drinks might be recommended to replenish electrolytes when you’re sick, but drink them in moderation and don’t make them a habit after you’ve recovered because unless they are a sugar free version, they contain a lot of sugar.
You might also want something to warm you up. When you have a cold or the flu, you may want something comforting to get through it, like tea. Try not to add sugar or lemon if you can avoid it. Sugar can helps to fuel cavity-causing bacteria, and lemon is acidic. It’s something to keep in mind once you’re feeling 100% again, as well.