With winter weather, it also seems like there’s an increase in illness. Stomach bugs, the flu, colds, coughs, and even respiratory and sinus infections can leave you feeling terrible and trying to make it through as best you can.
Your dental health is probably far from your mind when you’re suffering through a winter illness. However, illnesses can leave lasting negative effects on your teeth if you’re not careful. Here are some tips to help you care for your teeth so that your teeth don’t have to suffer the consequences when you’re sick.
1. Stay on Top of Brushing and Flossing
The first thing that goes out the window when you’re sick is your daily routine. Instead of going to work you may not even get out of bed. Most people rely on their routines to stay consistent with dental hygiene. Make brushing and flossing a high priority even when you may not feel like following your regular morning and evening schedule.
In order to remember, you may need to set an alarm on your phone or simply brush each time you eat. It can also be hard to stick with flossing because many people experience gum and tooth pain when they are ill, but the temporary discomfort of flossing sore teeth is worth the reward of healthy teeth.
2. Follow Home Remedies With Water
When over-the-counter remedies aren’t available or can’t help all of your symptoms, it’s natural to use home remedies for a cold, stomach bug, and flu — like hot tea, vitamin c drinks, crackers, throat lozenges, and cough drops. These remedies can make your cold feel better, but they can end up harming your teeth because:
- Hard cough drops and lozenges often have added sugar. When you suck on them, they work to help clear your airway, but they are also like candy. Try and find sugar-free cough drops or make sure that you swish with water after sucking on one to help prevent the sugars from coating your teeth and gums.
- Teas, especially teas with added lemon and honey, can be sweet and acidic. They can accelerate tooth decay. Getting enough fluids is important for regaining your health, but make sure you always follow these drinks with some water to help dilute the effect they could have on your teeth.
- Juice, soda, and basic crackers can cause cavities. These simple sugars provide food for bacteria, even though they might be the only things that settle your upset stomach. Swishing and spitting out a bit of water after sipping on some juice or eating a cracker can limit their negative impact.
Water is your best friend when you’re ill. You should always have a bottle close by to help follow your at-home remedies.
3. Protect Against Dry Mouth
Similarly, it’s also important to keep your mouth moist when you’re sick. If your nose is stuffed up, then you breathe through your mouth for long periods of time, especially during sleep. Dry mouth drastically accelerates tooth decay, so you should make sure you do what you can to encourage saliva production. You can try:
- Running a humidifier at night to help add moisture to the air you breathe. This also helps with cold symptoms in general, so it’s a win-win situation.
- Keeping a bottle of water by your bed to sip when you wake to cough or blow your nose. Even just a little water brings some moisture back into your mouth.
- Using decongestants to try get your nose clear as soon as possible. If you can’t take decongestants because you are pregnant or nursing, ask your doctor about approved medicines.
- Staying hydrated throughout the day. Keep saliva flowing by sipping water. If you’re struggling to stay hydrated, then you can help bring more saliva into your mouth by sucking on sugar-free mints.
Dry mouth is one of the main sources of discomfort when you have a seasonal illness, but you can do what you can to keep your teeth from also feeling the effects.
4. Take Care After Throwing Up
Unfortunately, catching a stomach bug often means that you struggle to keep food in your stomach. After vomiting, you might want to brush your teeth to help get the taste out of your mouth and to help protect your teeth from the acidic contents of your stomach.
However, don’t rush to brush. Instead, swish your mouth with water. Adding a little baking soda to the water can also help. You could also suck on a basic anti-acid to help neutralize the effects of vomiting. The high acidity in your mouth when you throw up actually softens your enamel. Brushing the soft enamel right afterwards can cause even more damage. After drinking the water, wait a while to brush, and then brush very gently.
For more information about caring for your teeth when you’re sick, contact us at Valley Oak Dental Group.