The season for coughs and colds is upon us and can even affect our teeth and gums if we don’t take care.
Although colds and the flu can occur at any time of the year, the colder Winter months typically mean that this is more likely.
If you use a busy public transport system, you will be all too aware of the various airborne germs and viruses that can be transferred as you hear people coughing and sneezing all around you.
Although there are a number of things that we can do to help avoid these illnesses, such as regular washing of hands, for the most part, they are an inevitable part of life and are rarely life threatening providing that you are generally healthy.
Oral health and the flu
Because a flu virus can affect you for several days, in some cases leaving you bed ridden, it can be all too easy for your teeth and gums to suffer during this period. Below, Clapham dentist Dr Jignesh Patel (GDC 81168), looks at some of the potential problems and what you can do to minimise the impact of the flu, and colds, upon your oral health.
When you are feeling especially dreadful, the last thing on your mind may be to drag yourself from your bed to clean your teeth twice a day. Although skipping even a single brushing session is not a good idea, if this continues for a number of days, your teeth and gums are likely to deteriorate. Given that you may also be eating less healthily and opting for comforting high sugar foods, it isn’t hard to see what could go wrong.
If you physically can, do try to maintain your regular teeth cleaning regimen. Even a cursory brushing, with toothpaste, for a few days, is better than nothing at all.
If you have the flu, it is quite likely that your appetite will suffer and the fact is that most of us can go without food for a short period of time. What we do need though is water, and quite a lot of it. In addition to making us feel better, hydrated and potentially helping us to recover from the virus, drinking water regularly will help to flush away any food particles, as well as some of the excess bacteria that can lead to gum disease. Do stick to water and avoid high sugar energy drinks as these will only exacerbate the risks.
Some flu bugs may cause vomiting, especially in children. This can leave a very unpleasant taste in the mouth and the temptation can be to clean your teeth immediately to remove the taste. It is best though, to avoid doing this immediately and instead, swill water around the mouth for a while. If you brush your teeth immediately after vomiting, you are largely just spreading the stomach acids even further around your teeth, potentially causing harm to the enamel.
Cough drops and throat sweets
The jury is out on whether these do much at all for the illness itself, but they can certainly help to relieve some of the symptoms. Most of these are made to be sucked though and often contain high levels of sugar. This constant exposure to sugary remedies may contribute to problems such as tooth decay. There are sugar free alternatives available and we recommend that you use these. For sore throats, gargling with salt water can help in relieving some symptoms and also helps to reduce the number of potentially harmful bacteria in your mouth.
Although the flu may feel like it will ask for ever, it won’t. Gradually we will start to feel better and return to our normal daily routine. Especially if you have neglected your teeth for a few days because of a cold or flu, you should take extra care to clean your teeth well upon recovery.
One thing that you should definitely do, is to throw away your old toothbrush. Flu viruses and bacteria can live on the bristles for some time and may even cause reinfection. Under no circumstances should you share your toothbrush either. This applies at all times, but especially during an illness!
Especially if you have had a bad cold or flu and know that you really haven’t looked after your teeth well during your illness, it is always worth making an appointment at the Confidental Clinic just to be sure that everything is OK. We are more than happy to examine your mouth and make any necessary recommendations to restore your teeth and gums to good health. Seeing a dental hygienist for a professional, thorough clean is also a great way of restoring mouth health following an illness.
If you wish to make an appointment, whether for a post illness check up, a general or emergency dental appointment, you can call our Clapham dental practice on 020 7801 9060.