When you get sick, it’s more important than ever to look after your overall health — including your oral health. Brushing and flossing can be much harder when you catch a cold or a flu, but it’s always important to continue practicing good oral hygiene to avoid complications. Here are some tips you can use to take care of your mouth even when you don’t feel well.
● Stay hydrated. Colds and the flu can take up more of your regular fluid intake. It’s important to stay hydrated when you get sick to counteract dehydration, more so if your nose is stuffy and your throat is itchy. Dehydration causes your mouth to dry, which can increase the risks of developing cavities. Some medications (e.g. antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers) can also dry out your mouth, so drink plenty of water and suck on throat lozenges to keep your saliva flowing.
● Watch your sugar intake. Many popular throat lozenges are made with sugar. Since these lozenges stay in your mouth for several minutes at a time, the sugar has time to build up on your teeth. This gives bacteria more time to grow on your teeth and give you cavities. Use sugar-free lozenges and cough syrups, or drink tablet-form cough medicine to avoid cavities from dry mouth and excessive sugar intake.
● Gargle with salt water. When you have a sore throat, one way to help alleviate the effects is gargling salt water. Salt water helps kill bacteria and relieve pain from a sore throat. Eliminating germs in the mouth also reduces the risk of cavities and gum disease. Put a tablespoon of salt into a cup of water, and swish the solution in your mouth for roughly 60 seconds.
● Rinse your mouth after vomiting. One common side effect of a stomach flu is vomiting. Whenever you vomit, you may be tempted to brush your teeth right away to rid yourself of the taste. However, this can cause more damage by rubbing the stomach acids deeper into your teeth. Instead, rinse your mouth with a mixture of water and one teaspoon of baking soda to wash the acid away. Spit, then brush a half hour later.
● Choose the right fluids. If you want to rehydrate when sick, you can choose from various options. Your safest pick is water, but sports drinks are a good choice to replenish any lost electrolytes. Drink them in moderation, as they contain plenty of sugar. Tea can also help keep you warm up if you have a cold or flu, but avoid adding sugar or lemon.
● Maintain regular oral hygiene. Even if you don’t feel up to it, continue to follow your normal oral hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing twice a day still removes plaque and germs from your mouth, and leaves you feeling more refreshed.
● Replace your toothbrush. After recovery, throw away the toothbrush you used while you were sick. You can’t be reinfected with the same germs, but any other germs left on the toothbrush can give you another illness. If you have had the toothbrush for three or four months, it’s due for replacement anyway so get a clean new brush for better cleaning.
Additionally, poor oral hygiene can negatively affect the immune system. To ensure you maintain your overall oral health (and avoid getting sick in the first place), keep to a good oral care regimen and regularly visit the nearest dental clinic. Oshawa, Mississauga, Toronto, and the rest of the GTA are home to various dental practices so you can easily find one suitable for you.