It’s never fun to battle a cold or a bout of flu, but that’s no reason to slack off on taking care of our teeth and gums.
It can feel like a lot of work to keep up with brushing and flossing when we’re not feeling well, but it’s worth it. Maintaining these simple daily habits is still important. They help us feel more normal, refreshed, and rejuvenated, and when we feel unwell, they can give us a small sense of accomplishment that does a lot for our overall sense of wellbeing. And getting rid of more oral bacteria can only help by giving your immune system less work to do!
Indirectly, not being able to breathe through our noses does make us more vulnerable to tooth decay. When we’re forced to breathe through our mouths, it dries up our saliva. This can be a major problem because saliva is the first line of defense against harmful oral bacteria. It washes away leftover food particles and keeps our oral pH neutral so that our enamel can stay strong.
Sometimes it’s the medicine we take that dries out our mouths (antihistamines, pain relievers, and decongestants are all big offenders), so make sure to drink plenty of water and breathe through your nose whenever possible.
Have you ever gotten that snotty taste in your mouth when you have a cold? If you can taste it, then it’s probably what your breath smells like, and it comes from post-nasal drip (the excess mucus that leaks down the back of the throat during a runny nose). Bacteria can easily multiply in this situation, resulting in unpleasant smells. There’s one more reason to keep up with brushing and flossing while we’re sick!
Harmful bacteria likes to live in our mouths because it can get plenty of access to its favorite food there: sugar. When we eat sugary cough drops, it might help with the cough, but it’s as bad for our teeth as hard candy. In addition to generally cutting back on sugary foods and drinks, we recommend choosing a sugar-free cough drop for combating a cough.
Likewise, use water or other sugar-free drinks to rehydrate when an illness is using up all your body’s fluids. When we do consume sugar, we should rinse with water after to wash away the leftovers. Drinking plenty of water is particularly important when we have a stomach bug, because it helps protect our teeth from the damage stomach acid can do to them if we’re vomiting frequently.
If we haven’t answered all your questions about how common illnesses and oral health interact with each other, just let us know! We want to make sure all our patients have the information they need to keep their teeth and gums in good shape, even when they’re not feeling well!