The weather is getting colder and the cold breeze brings along the onset of the cold and flu season.
Seasonal changes are likely to make you sick.
Unless you have a flu shot, you need to grab some tissues and cough drops to prepare for the seasonal cold.
While we are busy returning to being healthy, we forget that our oral health is affected too.
It can cause common oral health problems like dry mouth, cavities, bad breath and toothache.
Though, you can prevent them by taking care of your dental health and hygiene.
This article discusses how you need to take oral care when you are sick to prevent problems with your mouth from continuing after you recover.
Oral Health Problems With Cold and Flu
The common cold can last up to seven to 10 days.
This can be an uncomfortable time with cold symptoms including:
These flu symptoms result from the influenza virus and due to these symptoms, you can get other oral problems and bacterial infections too.
A stuffy nose or nasal congestion will hinder you from breathing through your nose.
Then, you have no other option but to eventually breathe through your mouth.
This leads to a dry mouth making your lips dry out as well and your teeth and gums pain.
You will unconsciously do it when you are sleeping, as result you will wake up with a dry mouth.
Furthermore, taking decongestants, pain relievers, antihistamines and other flu medicines are also responsible for decreasing salivary flow.
Therefore, if you keep your mouth open while sleeping and take these medicines to combat the illness, you will get a drier mouth.
A dry mouth and less saliva flow can result in the accumulation of bacteria which can not only cause cavities but also give an unpleasant smell from your mouth.
This is known as bad breath.
It happens because of the post nasal drip from a runny nose at the back of your throat.
The cold virus also causes sinusitis.
It results in tooth pain in your upper teeth.
They are in close proximity to the sinuses and this toothache spreads to other teeth as well.
Sinus pain will also be around your nose, cheeks and eyes.
Moreover, you can see a thick yellow mucus draining from your throat or nose in acute sinusitis.
These are the common problems resulting from sickness.
So, how should you control their harm? Let’s find out below!
Combating Dry Mouth
When you are sick with a cold, you can get a stuffy nose.
As a result, you will take decongestants to relieve your nasal congestion.
However, both of these will result in a dry mouth.
Your throat will be parched and you will be unable to swallow food properly.
More importantly, as the salivary flow reduces inside your mouth, the bacteria pile up.
The saliva is your first line of defense.
As you eat and drink, the saliva clears the food debris and neutralizes the acids.
This hinders the bacteria from feeding on food particles and releasing acids that damage the enamel.
However, when there is less salivary flow, the bacteria attack the teeth resulting in enamel erosion.
Furthermore, as the bacteria accumulate your mouth gives off an unpleasant smell resulting in bad breath.
However, you need to keep taking medicines that cause dry mouth to feel well.
Hence, you should keep your salivary flow going.
This begins by drinking lots of water which helps to regulate the flow of saliva.
Furthermore, eat sugar-free chewing gum, throat lozenges and sugarless cough drops to stimulate the salivary flow.
Furthermore, try to keep your environment moist by reducing the dryness.
Use a humidifier to moisten the air which can also help with sinusitis.
Plus a nasal spray helps to decongest the nose and also reduce the symptoms of sinusitis.
Additionally, taking a hot water bath can provide moisture to combat dryness whereas the heat can clear the congestion in nasal passages.
Furthermore, you can use a saliva stimulant if drinking water and chewing gum are not enough.
It is also important to maintain your oral hygiene at this point as it keeps the bacteria in control.
Maintaining Good Hygiene in Cold and Flu
When you are sick with a viral infection, you can likely transmit it to others around you too.
Hence, you need to take care of your hygiene both oral and physical when you are ill.
Discard those used tissues and do not keep them lying around.
Also do not forget to wash your hands regularly.
As you are sneezing and coughing, the particles can get on your hands and face.
Ideally, you should cough or sneeze in your elbow but handwashing is still essential.
This prevents the microbes in your hand from entering the mouth. ‘
If you feel extremely unwell having shortness of breath (signs of respiratory illnesses) or severe fear, it is better to stay home (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mayo Clinic) rather than going out as it could be a serious virus such as the Coronavirus.
Furthermore, keep brushing and flossing as taking care of your oral hygiene while you are sick, refreshes you, and keeps the bacteria at bay.
Though, remember to not share your toothbrush with anyone.
The microbes live on a moist toothbrush for up to 72 hours.
Therefore, anyone using it can get sick too.
Moreover, replace your toothbrush timely, however, you do not need to change it after a sickness period.
You will not get sick again from using the same toothbrush unless you have a weak immune system.
So there is no need to change it immediately but do so when the bristles become frail.
Moreover, do not keep other toothbrushes in close proximity to the one the sick person in the family is using.
Furthermore, do not use the same toothpaste.
The toothpaste tube can touch the toothbrush while you are applying it.
Hence, the sick person should keep their toothbrush and toothpaste separately.
Moreover, follow other oral practices as detailed below.
Oral Care During Cold and Flu
Remember to Not Brush as Soon as You Vomit
You can likely get stomach flu alongside the common cold.
It further results in vomiting and nausea.
As soon as you vomit, you may want to dispel the terrible aftertaste in your mouth by brushing.
Though, that is incredibly wrong.
The acids from your stomach are already inside your mouth.
Brushing right now will be equivalent to rubbing the acids onto your teeth.
Hence, you should rather rinse your mouth first with water and then proceed to brush.
You can also rinse and swish with a 1 teaspoon baking soda and water mixture.
It will help to neutralize the acids and you can brush after 30 minutes.
It is very important to stay hydrated while you are sick.
Drinking water is crucial as it helps to combat dry mouth and also prevents dehydration.
However, sports drinks also restore electrolytes in your body.
Though, they should be taken sparsely as they are full of sugars which can result in a tooth cavity while your mouth is also dry.
You can try warm drinks such as tea and coffee, without sugars to clear your throat and feel better.
Again, ensure that you don’t add sugars that can harm your oral health at this time.
Suck on Sugarless Cough Drops
Cough drops and lozenges can relieve the itchiness and irritation inside your throat.
However, constantly sucking on them will expose your teeth to tons of sugars and the bacteria will start feeding on them.
The longer you suck them, the greater is the chance of bacteria decaying teeth.
As a result, cavities may occur.
Hence, check the label and go for sugar-free cough drops containing xylitol instead of fructose and fructose and corn syrup.
Protect Your Oral Health
Flu season lasts a while and if you do not have the flu vaccine, you are as vulnerable as anyone else to get sick.
While the sickness will take its full course until you are well, the oral health damage in this time period can continue for a long time.
If you neglect your dry mouth, the decay in your teeth can persist and form cavities in more than one tooth.
In fact, to avoid further damage to your oral health, you should visit your dentist regularly.
This will help them catch decay early to prevent it from worsening to cavities.
Also, keep drinking lots of water as it can hydrate your body while you are feeling low and also prevent your lips and mouth from getting dry.
Even, when you feel unwell and tired do not skip brushing and flossing.
Also, use a tongue scraper occasionally to clear the bacteria in your mouth.
You will get well after seven to ten days but the time you skipped taking care of your oral hygiene will be detrimental to your mouth for longer.
Hence, even if you get a cold and flu, maintaining your oral health should remain your priority.
Are you reading this while you are sick?
Then get up and brush your teeth to feel better and protect your dental health.