‘Tis the season for colds, flu and spending time with your doctor. Unfortunately, the remedies your doctor, conventional wisdom and even old wives’ tales recommend can lead to bad news at your next dental appointment. If you’re sick, it’s important to factor in your dentist’s flu season tips, too.
When you’re sick, it’s hard to care about anything but getting relief from those stubborn coughs, stuffy or runny noses, pounding sinus pain, nausea or vomiting, and the aches, pains and chills of fever.
Unfortunately, what most of these symptoms have in common is a remedy that’s hard on your teeth. These are the hazards you should be aware of:
Cough syrups, lozenges and liquid cold medicines
Syrupy substances are the worst form of sugar because the stickiness coats your teeth, causing longer exposure to the damaging effect. Lozenges dissolve slowly, keeping the sugar in your mouth longer.
It’s better to get the relief you need with sugar-free lozenges and liquid medicines or—better yet—relief in capsule form whenever possible.
Ever taken a decongestant for a constantly dripping nose only to end up with a pounding sinus headache and dry mouth instead? That’s the medicine doing its work. That drying effect reduces saliva, which means that it can’t do its job of reducing bacteria and removing sugars from your mouth.
Your doctor most likely reminds you to drink plenty of liquids when you’re sick. If you’re taking a decongestant, it’s even more important to stay hydrated. But that in itself can cause more problems.
Liquids with sugar or honey
When you’re sick, you need lots of water. Unfortunately, that’s not always what you want. The typical drinks of choice when you have a cold or the flu are loaded with sugar:
- Sodas like ginger ale for an upset stomach
- Hot tea with lemon and honey
- Orange juice
It doesn’t matter where the sugar comes from. Honey in tea, added sugars in sodas, or natural sugars in fruit juice all deposit large amounts of the substance that mouth bacteria thrives on.
Additionally, as comforting and even healthful as hot tea or fruit juices can be, they also contain corrosive elements that can affect your tooth enamel. (This is especially true with lemon juice.)flu
Juices fortified with calcium may help to strengthen your enamel and offset some of the acid and sugar attack. But the best strategy is to drink these liquids in one sitting or with meals, rather than sipping all day long, and brush or rinse after consuming.
Whether it’s caused by morning sickness, a stomach bug, morning sickness, something you ate, or too much alcohol, vomiting exposes your teeth to the corrosive effect of stomach acid. The typical follow-up of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda adds sugar to the mix. Always brush or rinse after throwing up.
Protect Your Teeth While You’re Sick
Drinking lots of water and washing your hands frequently may help you avoid catching the latest bugs that are going around. But if they get the best of you, combat the effects of sickness or symptom relief by seeing your dentist regularly for preventive care and maintaining good oral hygiene even while you’re sick. Flu season shouldn’t lead to cavity season.
About the Author
The talented dental team at the Painesville Dental Group serves Painesville, Jefferson and Chardon and the surrounding areas. If cold and flu season and the holidays have derailed your dental self-care intentions, contact them at (440) 286-2474 to find out how you can start the year confident that your teeth are as healthy as they can be.