We’re finally starting to see the light at the end of the flu season, and thank goodness, too! By all accounts, it’s been a rough season, the worst since 2010, at least. And if you didn’t get vaccinated, you probably got dinged by the flu this year. (Of course, if you did get vaccinated, there was still a good chance you caught it, too.)
Fortunately, for most of us, the flu is just a passing nuisance. Although it might linger much longer than we’d like, it does go away. However, there are some impacts of the flu season that can be permanent, especially if you’ve damaged your teeth with your flu treatments. Here are some of the common risks that can impact your teeth during flu season, and how we can help combat them.
There are many reasons why you might have a dry mouth during the flu season. Most likely is that your nose is congested, forcing you to breathe through your mouth. Mouth breathing dries your mouth out and increases your risk of cavities.
It’s easier said than done, we know, but try to clear your nose before bed and position yourself to maximize nasal breathing. Stay hydrated during the day and overnight to keep saliva flowing. And don’t forget to brush and floss before bed: the fewer bacteria there are to exploit your dry mouth, the better.
But dry mouth can also be caused by some cough and cold medications. If you find that your medications are causing dry mouth, you can try keeping hydrated, but something this isn’t enough. In that case, saliva substitutes (known as sinalogues) can help. Don’t forget that alcohol (common in cold medications) can also dry out your mouth, so maybe it’s a good time to give up your evening tipple.
Sugary Syrups and Drops
Another risk of cold and flu season is all the sugary medications that are available. Many cough syrups and drops are full of sugar. As you take these medications between meals and even such on drops slowly over time, you expose your teeth to sugar that can cause oral bacteria to thrive, increasing your risk of cavities.
Look for sugar-free versions of syrups and drops to reduce this risk. Or, if you are taking sugary versions, rinse your mouth out after. Just put water in your mouth and swish it around, then spit so you can keep the coating on your throat that can provide lasting comfort and cough suppression.
Also, consider throat sprays that suppress coughs without anything in the mouth.
Another problem with cough syrups and drops is that they’re so darkly colored. Red or green liquids that are on your teeth for prolonged periods of time can cause discoloration. Discoloration is amplified if your mouth is dry or acidic.
Don’t Forget Oral Hygiene
We know that the flu makes you feel terrible, and that tooth brushing and flossing seems like just one more thing separating you from your bed, but don’t let that keep you from cleaning your teeth twice a day every day like you’re supposed to.
Your body can heal from the flu, but it can’t heal teeth that have been damaged by decay. And though a few minutes more before bed might seem like too much of a price to pay to keep your teeth clean, it’s worth it. Trust us on this.
A Checkup When You’re Better
It’s hard to schedule a checkup during the flu season. Odds are pretty good that you’ve already had to cancel a checkup this year. But don’t forget to reschedule it for when you’re better.
And if it’s been too long since you had a checkup, there’s no better time than now to get back on track. We can identify problems that have cropped up and even do teeth whitening to help brighten teeth that might have stained over the season. Having good oral health can be a strong foundation for your overall health. It may even reduce your risk of coming down with flu next year. And that’s well worth the effort.