With winter comes the cold, rotavirus, and flu season. Like most others, you probably muddle through these illnesses with cough syrup, fever-reducing medicine, hot drinks, and plenty of rest. When you get sick, taking care of your teeth is probably the last thing on your mind.
But protecting your teeth is actually very important when you’re ill, because many of the home remedies people use for common illness can actually be harmful to your teeth. Here’s a guide for helping you keep your teeth healthy when sickness strikes.
Keep Drinking Water
If you’re vomiting or struggling with sinus pain or a sore throat, it’s tough to get enough fluids. Many people try to overcome the unpleasantness of swallowing by drinking soda, juice, or sweet tea. Those who have colds often drink orange juice for vitamin C, while those who are throwing up drink juice or sports drink to replace electrolytes and sooth the stomach.
All of these drinks are acidic, and when you sip them all day instead of drinking water, your teeth get prolonged exposure to this acid, which weakens your enamel. To avoid this, make an effort to hydrate with water. If you must drink something else, try to drink water afterward to help rinse the acid and sugar from your teeth.
Drinking water also helps offset dry mouth, which can come when you have a stuffy nose or you take decongestants. Breathing through the mouth dries out your teeth, making it easier for bacteria to remain on your enamel, so it’s important to rinse your teeth often and well.
Don’t Procrastinate Brushing
When you’re sick, you spend more time resting. Your daily routine is thrown off, so instead of brushing in the morning, after your morning meal, or before leaving for work, you just stay in bed. Getting up from your lethargic rest might seem like a chore, but procrastinating your tooth care is terrible for your teeth.
If possible, it’s actually better to brush a little more frequently than usual when you’re sick. When you’re ill, you speak and swallow less often. These actions keep saliva active in your mouth as you move your tongue. When you’re not moving your mouth, bacteria multiplies and settles more easily. To keep your teeth clean and germ-free in this situation, brush three times a day instead of two.
If you have trouble remembering to brush your teeth, set a reminder on your phone, or ask a family member to remind you throughout the day. It’s important that you provide your teeth with the supplemental help they need while you rest.
Rinse, Rinse, Rinse
Normally, you might not even think about rinsing your mouth out periodically during the day. When you’re eating, brushing, and flossing, there’s not a real need to. But when you’re sick, you should take the time to rinse your mouth after:
- Taking sugary cough syrup or pink stomach medication. While medicine helps with sickness symptoms, it can still be like candy to your teeth. Follow all medications with water to help keep your teeth clean.
- Vomiting. Almost nothing is more harmful to your teeth than the corrosive contents of your stomach. You might feel like immediately brushing your teeth after you throw up, but you should first rinse your mouth with water. If you can stand the taste, mix a little baking soda into a glass of water and gargle with it. The baking soda helps to neutralize the acid. Brushing before rinsing can actually increase the damage to your enamel, so never forget to rinse—your enamel will suffer.
- Sucking on a cough drop or lozenge. Many of these products contain sugar. If you can, choose sugar-free versions, but just to stay on the safe side, rinsing will help rinse sugar off your teeth.
Rinsing is a powerful tool to help you keep your teeth healthy, even when you vomit or need to take symptom-reducing medications.
Keep Things Clean
Washing your hands and wiping door handles and other frequently touched objects is part of preventing the spread of infection. You should take the same care to keep your mouth clean. The more care you take with your dental hygiene, the better your teeth will fare. Try:
- Removing and replacing your toothbrush after your symptoms pass. This is especially important if you keep your brush in close proximity to other brushes in the bathroom cupboard.
- Using mouthwash during the day to help keep your mouth fresh and clean. Because some medications can make your mouth dry, using mouthwash between brushing can help replenish tooth moisture and fight bacteria.
- Gargling with salt water. You’ll want to make sure you do not swallow the salt water, but salt rinses have anti-bacterial properties and can help ease tooth and throat pain that comes with illness.
Keeping your mouth and environment clean can help you overcome your illness more quickly, and retain your bright smile while you’re at it. For more information on healthy oral hygiene ideas to use when you’re sick, contact us at Apollo Dental Center.