Taking Care of Your Teeth When You Have the Flu

By now it’s no surprise; the 2014-2015 flu season is a bad one. Adults 65 and over, children younger than 5, and those with immune system-compromising medical conditions are especially at risk. Add to all this the fact that this season’s flu vaccine is especially ineffective (the virus mutated to a virulent strain of H3N2 virus that was not accounted for in the vaccine) and you have a recipe for a bad season with lots of missed work due to sickness.
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http://www.cdc.gov/flu/news/flu-activity-expands.htm

When you have the flu, you’re probably not thinking about your teeth at all, but there are a few things that you should keep in mind to get you past your sickness that will also keep your teeth happy.

  1. No matter how gross and tired you feel, brush and floss your teeth. Your oral health is important enough to power through this. While one missed episode of missed daily hygiene may not affect you much, repeatedly neglecting your teeth over the course of a few days can have expensive consequences. Dental decay and gum disease will not rest, even though you want to take a sick vacation.
  2. Realize that most medications are loaded with sugar. You might be relying on cough drops and throat lozenges for a few days. Even though they are a little more expensive, make sure to only get sugar-free medications, especially those that are designed to be sucked on for hours. Most people seem to prefer drops and lozenges, but if you’re an old-school type who prefers syrup medications, make sure you rinse your mouth before going to bed. Even though it doesn’t taste like anything remotely resembling sweetness, there is an awful lot of sugar in syrup medications too.
  3. Don’t let your mouth get dry. A dry mouth makes all dental problems much worse than they otherwise would be. If you’re battling through the flu, you’ll likely experience periods of stuffy nose and congestion where you’re mostly breathing through your mouth. This can dry you out quickly. Further complicating the issue is the fact that most medications also cause dry mouth. The bad bacteria thrive in a dry environment. Drink plenty of water when you’re ill.
  4. If you need to vomit, make sure to rinse your mouth. It probably goes without saying that you should rinse your mouth after a vomiting episode. Not only is it gross to the taste, but vomit is extremely acidic and damaging to teeth. One caveat to this: don’t start scrubbing away with a toothbrush immediately. Rinse thoroughly and then brush about 30 minutes later. Aggressive brushing in the presence of strong acid can do significant damage to teeth and gums. You might want to even put a little baking soda in the water you rinse with—this can actually neutralize the acid from the vomit.

Tips For Cold and Flu Season

Vicks Nyquil - Call My Mom

-Nicolas K. Young, DMD