Influenza (flu) is currently affecting people of all ages across the country. There can be many side effects that leave you with an icky feeling all over your body, including your mouth. The spread of the disease can be from coughing or even just breathing near someone. By following good health tips, you can protect yourself, and others, during this uncomfortable time. The ADA website, mouthhealthy.org has some everyday tips that can help you feel better when the flu and cold knock you down.
Practice good hygiene. Cover your cough, wash your hands and change your toothbrush are all things you have heard before. The flu virus can sit on surfaces for up to 72 hours so it is important to keep those bugs contained by coughing and sneezing into your inner elbow. Changing your toothbrush isn’t always necessary after a sickness, but it does need to be changed every 3 to 4 months and never shared with anyone else.
Use sugar-free cough drops. The sugar in regular drops and hard candies are a constant source of food for bacteria that cause cavities. When cough drops are in your mouth for so long, your tooth is at risk for breaking down and becoming rotten. Honey can also be used to soothe a cough, but watch out as it also is a source of sugar.
Swish and spit after vomiting. Swishing with water and brushing your teeth 30 minutes later will protect your teeth. The stomach acid from vomiting will touch your teeth and create a bad environment in your mouth. If you brush too soon, the acid will be rubbed onto your teeth and the enamel will be worn away easily. Swishing will allow the acid to dilute before cleaning your mouth. The enamel will start to regain its strength, naturally, after about 30 minutes.
Stay hydrated to avoid dry mouth. Drinking water helps your body fight infection but it also helps to protect your teeth. Dry mouth from illness or medications can allow cavities to form more rapidly. This can be an uncomfortable condition that affects, eating, speaking and sleeping. Cold and Flu medications like antihistamines, decongestants and pain relievers can all dry your mouth out. Drinking and swishing can help. You may also need special products that can help with dry mouth if water isn’t enough. Sucking on sugar-free hard candy or sugarless gum can increase saliva and create a healthier environment.
Choose the right fluids. Sports drinks can offer electrolytes but they can also be sources of sugar. If you need them, try to use them in moderations and avoid sipping all day. Water is the safest thing to drink. Hot drinks feel good on your throat but watch out for lemons and sweeteners. The acid and sugar will damage your teeth.
We could also make note that hand washing, done well and frequent, minimizes the spread of germs. This is especially important before eating foods with your hands. Try not to touch your face area too much as the germs can travel into your nose, mouth and eyes easily.
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We wish you the best of health!
Katherine Bolterman DDS