When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of our bodies is top priority and that also includes your mouth. Did you know that brushing your teeth when you’re sick can actually make you feel better? When your mouth feels clean, you can start to feel like your health is improving.
Here are some simple ways to care for your dental health when you’re not feeling well:
Practice Good Hygiene
When you’re sick, you know to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze so don’t forget to keep up your dental and toothbrush hygiene as well. According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. You don’t necessarily need to replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick, but if you’ve had your toothbrush 3-4 months already, it might be a good idea to replace it anyway.
Choose Sugar-Free Cough Drops
Read the label before you pick up a bag with an eye to avoid ingredients like fructose or corn syrup. Many cough drops contain sugar, and it is like sucking on candy. Sugar is a culprit when it comes to cavities. The longer you keep a sugary cough drop in your mouth, the more time cavity-causing bacteria has to feast on that sugar.
Swish and Spit After Vomiting
One unfortunate side effect of a stomach flu, among other illnesses, is vomiting. You might be tempted to brush your teeth right away, but it’s often best to wait because when you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them. If you brush too soon, you’re just rubbing that acid all over the hard, outer shell of your teeth. Instead, swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water and 1 tsp. baking soda to help wash the acid away. Spit, and brush about 30 minutes later.
Stay Hydrated to Avoid Dry Mouth
When you’re sick, you need plenty of fluids for many reasons. One is to prevent dry mouth. Not only is it uncomfortable—dry mouth can also put you at greater risk for cavities. The medications you might be taking for a cold or flu—such as antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers—can also dry out your mouth, so drink plenty of water and suck on sugarless cough drops, throat lozenges or candies to keep that saliva flowing.
Choose the Right Fluids
When it comes to your mouth and your body, one beverage is always best, which is water. Often times your physician may recommend sports drinks to replenish electrolytes when you’re sick, but drink them in moderation and don’t make them a habit after you’ve recovered because unless they are a sugar free version, they contain a lot of sugar.
You might also want something to warm you up. “When you have a cold or the flu, you may want something comforting to get through it, like tea, but try not to add sugar or lemon if you can avoid it. Sugar can help to fuel cavity-causing bacteria, and lemon is acidic. It’s something to keep in mind once you’re feeling 100% again, as well.