When you have a cold or the flu, your top priority is taking care of your body—including your mouth. While it’s important to practice good dental hygiene all year round, it’s especially important when you’re sick.
Coughing, sneezing and worse can keep you in bed, and practicing good dental hygiene can easily get forgotten. To make sure your mouth doesn’t suffer from neglect, here are some simple ways to care for your teeth when you’re not feeling well.
Drink plenty of water when sick to keep your body and mouth hydrated
If you’re fighting a stuffy nose, you may find your mouth feels dryer from breathing through it more than usual. Frequent coughing can also dry out your mouth. Without a good flow of saliva, more sugars stick to the teeth and contribute to tooth decay.
To help your mouth and your body, drink plenty of fluids. And the safest choice is pure water. Most sports drinks contain large amounts of sugar which can be damaging to teeth. If you need to drink one to replenish electrolytes, choose a sugar-free version and drink it in moderation.
Most cough medicines are not very friendly to your teeth. Many are loaded with sticky sugars that stick to your teeth and cause cavities. If you need help in calming your cough, look for are sugar-free drops that are much better for your teeth.
Another option to keep your cough at bay while protecting your teeth is cough medicine in a pill form. There are several brands of cough medicine available in gel caps which don’t contain all of the sugar that syrup does.
Brushing your teeth 20 minutes after each meal will keep germs from getting out of control.
It’s normal for bacteria to multiply when you’re sick. The mouth is often a breeding ground for germs especially when you’re feeling under the weather. Brushing your teeth 20 minutes after each meal—or at least morning and night—will keep germs from getting out of control.
One of the unfortunate side effects of the stomach flu is often vomiting. And because the stomach is the most acidic part of your body, contents that come back up will coat your teeth and cause damage if not rinsed away.
Though it’s tempting to brush your teeth right away, it’s actually better to wait. If you brush too soon after, you’ll spread that acid over the hard outer shell of your teeth. Instead, rinse with water or a diluted mouth wash, then brush about 30 minutes later.
Trade in your old toothbrush for a new, germ-free one so you don’t re-infect yourself
Eventually, you will feel better and your health will return. You’ll definitely feel like celebrating your ability to breathe through your nose, talk without coughing, and keep a meal down. Since it’s common for bacteria to hide out on the toothbrush, you’ll want to trade in the old one for a new, germ-free brush so you don’t re-infect yourself.