Flu Blues: What Being Sick Means for Your Dental Health

If you are sick, you probably don’t feel like doing much aside from lying in bed. But, when you’re sick, your mouth is especially vulnerable. Common at-home remedies such as drinking sugary sports drinks or clear soda, can cause higher exposure to cavity-causing bacteria. Also, common medications such as antihistamines, decongestants and pain relievers can cause dry mouth. It’s important to take care of your oral health while sick, because the last thing you want from your flu is permanent damage to your smile.

How can I take care of myself?

1. Avoid lozenges and cough syrups that contain sugar, fructose or corn syrup. They may be soothing, but the longer they’re in your mouth, the more time cavity-causing bacteria has to damage your teeth.

When you’re sick, so is your mouth.

2. Drink water. Staying hydrated is always important, but even more so when you’re under the weather. Not only can drinking water protect you against dry-mouth which can be caused by certain medications, but it can also help keep cavity-causing bacteria at bay. If you do opt for something besides water, look for a sugar-free version. A warm cup of tea can help soothe, but try to avoid lemon or sugar if you can help it.

3. Rinse after vomiting. Wait to brush. Vomiting is an unfortunate side effect of many illnesses and can leave you obviously uncomfortable. However, it’s important that you wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after vomiting to keep from rubbing that gastric acid into your teeth and damaging your enamel. Instead, swish your mouth with water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water and baking soda to wash the acid away, then wait to brush after a half hour.

Continue brushing and flossing as normal, but don’t let your toothbrush near others!

4. Keep up brushing and flossing as usual (two minutes a day, twice a day). Also, don’t let your toothbrush come into contact with the others in your home. According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. And, contrary to popular belief, you may not need to replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick, because the likeliness of reinfection is generally very low. Unless your immune system is severely compromised, you’re probably safe to keep using your toothbrush, just replace it like normal every three months.

Being sick is no fun and when it comes to your already busy schedule, it’s downright inconvenient! While rescheduling your dentist appointment may not be the most convenient thing, it may just be the best thing you can do for yourself and for others.

Should I stay home?

Well, that depends. Do you have a runny or stuffy nose? If so, remember that for most dental appointments you won’t be able to breathe through your mouth. If you’re able to still breathe okay through your nose, you should be okay.

Protect yourself and others by rescheduling when you’re sick.

However, coughing and sneezing are a no-go for keeping a dentist appointment. Most of the bacteria associated with colds and the flu are found in the nose and throat, meaning you might get other patients and dental staff sick. Despite face masks, gloves and glasses, your dental team still works at a higher exposure rate. Practicing good hygiene is about more than yourself, and that means avoiding spreading your germs to others.

If you’re nervous about rescheduling your appointment with us, don’t worry, we won’t charge you for it and we’ll even help you find a better time to come in when you’re feeling better.

We hope you stay healthy. If you are feeling unwell, don’t hesitate to call and reschedule your appointment with us.

What makes you feel better when you’re sick – chicken noodle soup, hot tea? Tell us on Twitter @DentalDepotOKC or @DentalDepotTuls

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