It’s early in September, but flu shot advertisements are popping up all over the place, and that means that it’ll soon be cough and cold season, which has the potential to seriously damage your oral hygiene. It’s important that you take extra steps this season to make sure you keep on top of your oral health and keep your teeth and gums in top shape.
Your Primary Risk
The main reason why you are at risk during cough and cold season is that you may get sick. And when you get sick, your body diverts resources it normally uses to fight bacterial infection in your mouth elsewhere. You may also experience dehydration and a lack of vital nutrients. This puts your body at a disadvantage for fighting all infections, including mouth bacteria.
Secondary Enemy: You
Another problem with cough and cold season is that when you’re sick, you may put off brushing or flossing. It’s the end of the day and you feel terrible, and taking even a few extra minutes for oral hygiene can seem impossible. You may even fall asleep shortly after dinner (or lunch!) and unexpectedly sleep all night.
Secondary Enemy: Cough and Cold Syrups and Drops
When you’re sick you may think nothing of popping cough drops or downing a teaspoon of cough syrup at night. The problem is that those syrups and drops tend to be loaded with sugar. Cough syrup is called syrup for a reason. It’s made largely of the same things as pancake syrup: high fructose corn syrup.
Cough syrup manufacturers aren’t required to divulge just how much corn syrup is in their cough formulas, so we’re not entirely certain, but many diet sites put it pretty high, estimating that they have about 15 calories a teaspoon, which is more than ten times as much as coke for the same volume. (And this is not to mention the intense artificial colors that can lead to tooth staining.)
Cough drops are just as bad. You might be used to popping one cough drop after another to keep your sore throat pain manageable, but you might as well be eating candy constantly. You’re flooding your mouth with a steady supply of sugar that keeps bacteria fed with fuel to make acid and more bacteria.
A Winning Strategy
So how do you get through cough and cold season without too much damage to your oral health?
First, stay healthy. Wash your hands, eat well, get exercise, and consider a flu shot.
Second, always make the effort for oral hygiene. Don’t let a temporary condition like a cold or the flu lead to permanent damage to your teeth.
Finally, minimize damage from cough syrups and drops. Consider using the sugar free versions, and if you do use the versions with sugar, try to avoid getting cough syrup on your teeth and always brush your teeth after taking it. Limit your use of cough drops with sugar. Rinse your mouth out with water between drops and take a break. Consider using a throat spray instead of drops.
And of course, remember to make your regular dental visit during or after cold season. We can let you know if you’ve suffered any damage to your teeth or gums, help you get back on top of your oral hygiene and recommend any necessary repairs.