As if catching the cold or the flue wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that these viruses could just have an impact on your oral health, too.
Most of us don’t really think about how a cold virus might affect our overall dental health, but there is a potential risk here that really underscores the need for great oral hygiene, even when we’re feeling under the weather.
So, what are some of the most common dental issues that can be exacerbated by a simple cold (or the flu)? Let’s consider some of the following.
Increased Dry Mouth
Nasal congestion is a common symptom that many people suffer throughout cold and flu season. It’s so common, in fact, that it’s the main thing that tips people off to your condition, since the change in your voice or speech patterns make it “sound like you have a pretty bad cold.”
This kind of congestion could actually impact your oral health, too.
First, the more that nasal congestion blocks up your airways – especially while you sleep – the more likely you are to experience dry mouth. When your nasal passages are blocked up, you don’t have any choice but to breathe through your mouth.
The more your mouth dries out, the less saliva you have to help break down foods and wash away all the particles that could cause severe dental problems (namely, cavities and gum disease) down the road.
Second, even the medications you take to combat congestion may be causing dry mouth. According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Also, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbes that multiply and lead to disease.”
Unexplained Tooth Pain
A toothache can be a terrible experience all on its own. Add it to a severe cold or flu, and things get really miserable really fast.
Many people don’t realize, however, that the sudden and unexplained tooth pain may be directly related to a virus that impacts your sinuses.
Pain in your upper teeth – especially when it seems to affect multiple teeth – and tenderness around your sinuses could be a sign of sinusitis that has been cause by the cold virus or a bacterial infection.
Often, sinusitis will take care of itself, if you do everything you can to stay healthy, but if the symptoms and pain don’t resolve themselves after some time, you may need to talk to a doctor about some antibiotic solutions.
How to Protect Your Oral Health When You’re Under the Weather
There are several simple things you can do to keep your teeth in great shape while you’re fighting off the symptoms of the cold or the flu.
- Continue taking nasal decongestants to keep those airways open and reduce the amount of time in which dry mouth is possible. So even if the medications do contribute to dry mouth, it’s better to clear up the source of the problem as quickly as possible.
- Keep a water bottle nearby and sip from it regularly. This is especially important at night, so that if you wake up and feel a complete lack of moisture in your mouth, you’ll have an immediate remedy.
- Suck on sugar-free cough drops or vitamin lozenges to help stimulate saliva production. There are a lot of cold remedies out there that are filled with sugar since that “helps the medicine go down.” It’s worth the effort to find medication with alternative sweeteners or to follow it up with a good brushing and rinsing.
- Consider using a humidifier in your home to increase the moisture in the air in your bedroom while you sleep. This can also help to soothe your dry throat.
- Drink more liquids. This is something people have always recommended to those suffering from a cold, and for good reason. Hydration is important for your healing process, so by upping your liquid intake, you’re helping that process along while combatting dry mouth.
- Keep up with your regular dental hygiene routines. Sometimes you may just want to lay in bed and revel in the misery, but this is an important time to stick to your routines. If the bacteria has a chance to start building up, it’s going to take that opportunity – so don’t give it that chance.
- On that note, be sure to replace your toothbrush as soon as you start feeling better. It may be harboring a couple bacterial fugitives that are just waiting for a chance to reinfect your mouth.
Taking Care of Your Teeth and Your Health
The cold and flu season can be miserable for many people, but it’s important to stay on top of your situation to be as healthy as possible.
This includes the state of your teeth and gums. It may not be the first thing on your mind when all you want to do is curl up under a blanket with a warm beverage and wait it out, but the more proactive steps you take to protect your teeth when you start to feel common cold symptoms, the easier it will be to take care of your teeth while you’re in recovery mode.
If you’re concerned about your oral health, you can find a trusted Denver dentist here at LeDowns Dentistry to help you get your teeth and gums back in good health. Contact us today.