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Cold and flu season is in full swing again. When you’re feeling achy, chilled and stuffy, caring for your teeth can understandably slip your mind. Even the smallest task seems to take great effort when you’re feeling under the weather. Getting well and caring for you should take top priority and there are some easy things you can do to help minimize your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Good dental hygiene may also help prevent the spread of cold and flu germs. Here is a helpful list of tips for dental hygiene when you’re sick.

1. Opt for Sugar-Free Cough Drops and Medicine

Many cold and flu medications and cough drops are sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Cough drops containing sugar aren’t any different from candy when your teeth are concerned. This can contribute to tooth decay so it can be a helpful and easy step to switch them out for sugar-free alternatives. Read the ingredient labels and look for products containing xylitol or sucralose. If you do use products containing sugar, make sure to rinse your mouth and brush your teeth afterwards, as well, to maintain good dental hygiene when you’re sick.

2. Gargle with Salt Water

Salt water has natural antiseptic and healing properties and can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and throat. It can also help to soothe a sore throat. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt in warm water and rinse repeatedly until all the water has been used up.

3. Rinse and Brush after Vomiting

Vomiting is never a pleasant topic, but it is a common symptom we all deal with at some point when we are sick. Vomit is acidic and can damage the enamel of your teeth so it can be helpful to rinse with mouthwash (it’s ok to dilute it if strong smells are making you queasy) and brush when you have a chance afterwards.

4. Drink Plenty of Fluids

Staying hydrated is key to fighting the infection when you’re sick. Being sick with a respiratory illness may also mean that you are breathing through your mouth instead of your nose which can leave your mouth extra dry and dry mouth can contribute to your risk for cavities since saliva is important to keeping bacteria in the mouth under control. Common medications like decongestants are known to cause dry mouth, as well.

One important way to prioritize dental hygiene when you’re sick is to try to choose liquids that don’t contain sugar and won’t stain your teeth such as water and broth. Juice can also have helpful vitamins and electrolytes, though, or you might want ginger ale to settle your stomach, so if you do need to drink something containing sugar, be sure to rinse and brush well afterwards.

5. Get a New Toothbrush

Toothbrushes can start to harbor bacteria if not stored properly or kept too long. It’s always a good idea if you’re feeling under the weather to change out your toothbrush and make sure it’s stored someplace where it can dry properly between uses and it’s as far as possible from germ producing areas of the bathroom such as the toilet. Make sure to also keep your toothbrush separately from other members of the household, especially while you are sick, to help prevent the sharing of germs.

It’s hard to remember to think about dental hygiene when you’re sick, because being sick is exhausting! But maintaining good oral health is always important, and with just a few easy steps you may help prevent your chances of developing cavities or gum disease during illness.

Call our Dowagiac, MI dental office to make an appointment with a dentist who may be able to help you find out more about this topic, and improve your oral health.