4 ways to keep your mouth healthy during cold and flu season

Wet your whistle . . . and other ways to relieve dry mouthIf you’re like the average adult, you’ll get two or three colds a year, and they’ll last between seven and 10 days.2 And when flu season hits, about 8% of people in the U.S. get the flu.3 It might be easier to get through cold and flu season, while protecting your smile, when you try these tips to ease symptoms and avoid mouth complications.

1. Choose sugar-free cough drops and cold medications.
Cough drops help relieve nagging coughs and cavity-causing dry mouth. Check the label to avoid cough drops and liquid cold medications containing fructose or corn syrup. These sugars can lead to cavities, especially if you keep them in your mouth for a long time. Choose sugar-free lozenges and medications in tablet form instead. If you give children 4 years or older liquid cold medication sweetened with sugar, have them rinse with water afterward and brush their teeth if given right before bedtime or a nap.

2. Hydrate with the right kinds of fluids.
We’ve all heard you should drink fluids when fighting a cold. Just make sure you choose the best kinds.

  • Water is the preferred choice, as it keeps you hydrated and washes away cavity-causing acids.
  • Sugar-free sports drinks can give you an energy boost.
  • Low-sugar juice can be consumed in moderation if followed with water to wash away sugars from your teeth.

3. Maintain your daily oral health care routine.
You may not feel like doing much when you’re sick, but don’t let misery and exhaustion keep you from brushing twice a day and flossing daily.

4. Combat side effects.
Vomiting can be an unfortunate side effect of the flu. Not only does it dehydrate you, but stomach acids can also coat your teeth. Although you may be inclined to brush immediately, wait about 30 minutes. Brushing right after can wear down enamel softened by acid, so it’s better to swish and spit with water and baking soda several times to clean your mouth. Baking soda helps neutralize stomach acid.

Nasal congestion causes dry mouth, which can be exacerbated by over-the-counter medications, such as decongestants and antihistamines that are used to relieve stuffy noses. Try adding moisture to the air with a humidifier or vaporizer. You may also want to use a saline nasal spray. Don’t let dry mouth cause tooth decay and gum disease; drink plenty of water and suck on sugar-free hard candy to stimulate saliva and keep your mouth and throat moist.

If you start to feel under the weather during cold and flu season, take steps as soon as possible to protect your oral and overall health.

2 https://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/index.html
3 https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm


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