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How Common Winter Sicknesses Affect Your Oral Health

The days may be getting longer already, but flu and cold season is still at its peak. If you have been catching all the bugs going around, it’s worth taking some time to think about how being ill can affect the health of your teeth and gums.

Grant Park general dentist Dr. Abbey Lee wants to help stay in a state of good oral health, even when your body is fighting off illness. If you need a general dentist to care for your teeth and gums, call us at 404-328-7177 to make an appointment!

Being Sick Stinks

The worst thing about being sick isn’t necessarily the drippy nose, congestion, cough, or fevers—but the simple fact that you feel terrible. Depending on which virus you catch, you may feel so bad that you have no desire to eat, distract yourself with books or TV, or enjoy your temporary break from your responsibilities. When you feel that miserable, you definitely aren’t thinking about your oral health. But bacteria don’t take a sick day, so being sick shouldn’t mean you stop brushing and flossing your teeth.

If you are caring for a sick child who doesn’t feel like moving and can’t be motivated to follow his/her normal oral hygiene routine—bring oral hygiene to the patient, instead. With a bowl, washcloth, and a cup of water, you can create a “sink” for the child. This way, he or she can perform at least a cursory brushing, even while lying in bed or on a sofa. Go easy on the toothpaste, so as not to make the child feel worse (especially if he or she has been nauseous) and make sure a basic brushing gets accomplished. This may take a bit longer than usual, but is definitely worth doing.

It may be tempting to think that if your child isn’t eating or drinking very much, then brushing isn’t necessary, but this is not the case! Mouth bacteria are always present, and when you don’t eat as much, you also don’t produce as much saliva to neutralize the bacterial acids that cause tooth decay.

Medicines Can Dry You Out

Common cold and flu remedies often cause dry mouth as a side effect. As mentioned above, a dry mouth is a real threat to your tooth enamel because saliva is your body’s best natural defense against tooth decay. If you are taking medication to control your cold or flu symptoms, make it a point to stay very well hydrated, to encourage the production of saliva. Take small sips of water and unsweetened beverages throughout the day, and chew sugarless gum to stimulate the salivary glands. If you find yourself buying cough drops, look for the kind without sugar, as this will help keep your mouth feeling moist without contributing to a bacteria-friendly environment.

Stomach Flu and Your Teeth

If you or a family member catches a bug that affects the digestive system, you should be aware of how vomiting can harm the teeth. The presence of stomach acids in the mouth is incredibly damaging to your tooth enamel, and can lead to acid erosion and an increase in decay. This is why acid erosion is a very real problem for patients who suffer from chronic vomiting and acid reflux disease (GERD).

Do your best to resist the urge to brush your teeth immediately after vomiting, as this can rub the acids further into your enamel. Instead, rinse your mouth with water and have a drink of milk to neutralize the acid residue on your teeth. Milk and other dairy products are good at bringing pH levels back to the safe zone after vomiting. Wait at least 30 minutes, and then brush your teeth.

At Smiles 4 Grant Park, we are devoted to keeping your teeth healthy and strong, come what may. Visit Grant Park general dentist Abbey Lee every six months for preventive care. Call us at 404-328-7177 to make an appointment. 

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