Fight Back This Flu Season With Healthy Dental Habits
With the Autumn wind whipping up coughs, sniffles, and sneezes everywhere you turn, oral care may be the last thing on your mind, but this is not the time to drop your defenses. Thanks to these tips from the American Dental Association, you can equip your family with oral care routines that come out fighting!
Give Viruses the Brush-Off!
Being sick can be exhausting, but make sure to brush and floss. Remember to spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth at least twice a day.
Don’t Forget to Drink
Staying hydrated is essential because your body needs extra fluid to fight infection. Try, however, to choose the right liquids: sugary or acidic liquids can be counterproductive to your oral health – something to keep in mind even after you’re feeling better!
Dry mouth is a common problem, especially when you can’t breathe through your nose easily. Since saliva is a key player in controlling cavity-causing bacteria, dry mouth can increase your chances of cavities and gum disease. The medications you might be taking for a cold or flu— antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers—can also dry out your mouth, so do your body a favor by loading up on liquids – especially water.
When in Doubt Throw it Out.
When you’re sick, you know to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Be sure to practice good toothbrush hygiene as well.
- According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. Make it a rule to never share your toothbrush with anyone at any time.
- While you probably don’t need to replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick since the chances of reinfecting yourself are very low – if in doubt, throw it out! If you’ve had your toothbrush for 3 or 4 months, it is probably time to replace it anyway.
Gargle, Swish, and Spit
An unfortunate side effect of stomach flu, among other illnesses, is vomiting. While you might be tempted to brush your teeth right away, it’s actually better to wait. Vomiting brings strong acids in contact with your teeth, and brushing too soon exacerbates the problem by coating all of your precious tooth enamel with the acids. Even without pesky stomach bugs, gargling can offer much-needed relief during flu season.
- Baking Soda – Instead of brushing swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water and 1 tsp. baking soda to help wash any acid away. Spit, and then brush about 30 minutes later.
- Salt Water – Dissolve a tablespoon of salt water in a glass of warm water. Gargle and spit until the water is gone. This helps cut down on harmful bacteria in your mouth and throat, reducing the effects of bad breath and plaque.
Opt Out of Sugary Meds
Many cough drops and syrups are packed with sugar to sweeten the dose, and the longer you keep a sugary cough drop in your mouth, the more time cavity-causing bacteria has to feast on that sugar, which produces the acid that can leave holes in your teeth. Shop smart by looking for medicines sweetened with sugar substitutes like xylitol or sucralose. If you can’t find sugar-free alternatives, make sure to brush or rinse afterward. If your medicine is acidic, wait at least half an hour before brushing to let your enamel harden