Healthy Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS – This article was originally published in The Gettysburg Times, Wed, March 15, 2017
We’re not out of the woods yet—cold and flu season peaks between December and March, but usually lasts through May. If you or a loved one gets sick, here are six steps you can take to ensure your dental health doesn’t suffer during your recovery.
- Remember your routine. First, this may seem obvious, but a lot of people forget to continue brushing their teeth regularly when they’re sick. Even if you’re resting in bed most of the day, it’s important to keep up with your oral hygiene routine by brushing twice a day for at least two minutes. The simple act of cleaning your mouth will probably make you feel better, too!
- Stay hydrated. When you’re sick, you need plenty of fluids. Often, medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, or pain relievers, contribute to a dry mouth, which puts you at a greater risk for cavities. Drinking plenty of water is the best way to combat dry mouth. Throat lozenges or cough drops also help, but keep reading!
- Go sugar-free. If you need cough drops, check the packaging and purchase those labeled “sugar free.” Otherwise, if you’re spending a lot of time with sugary cough drops in your mouth, the higher your chances that bacteria—feasting on that sugar—is putting you at risk for cavities.
- Use caution with cold sores. If you develop cold sores on your lips, they are highly contagious, especially during the early stages of the eruption of the lesion. Do not share utensils, do not kiss anyone, and do not touch the lesions and then touch others.
- Swish and spit. If you have the stomach flu, unfortunately it often leads to vomiting. This coats your teeth with acid from your stomach. You may be tempted to brush your teeth right away, but that would actually spread the acid throughout your mouth. It’s actually better to swish with water, spit, and rinse out your mouth. After waiting 30 minutes, then you can brush your teeth.
- Replace your toothbrush. It’s always better to err on the side of caution, and replace your toothbrush after an illness. Or, you may run it through the dishwasher to kill any lingering germs.
Wishing you a healthy remainder of the cold and flu season!
Dr. Rita Tempel is the owner and founder of Gettysburg Smiles, a family dental practice located at 2018 York Road (Route 30 East), Gettysburg. She is a Sustaining Member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry as well as a Preferred Provider for Invisalign. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow Gettysburg Smiles on Facebook, or contact Dr. Tempel at 717-339-0033.