When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of your body is your top priority—and that includes your mouth.

Here are some simple ways to care for your dental health when you’re not feeling well:

Practice Good Hygiene

When you’re sick, you know to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Don’t forget to keep up your dental and toothbrush hygiene as well.

According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. Be sure not to share your toothbrush with anyone while you are sick to prevent the spread of the virus.

You also probably don’t need to replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick. It’s not likely that you will reinfect yourself unless your immune system is severely compromised. It’s not a bad idea though to routinely replace your toothbrush with the new one we provide at your dental checkup and cleaning

Choose Sugar-Free Cough Drops

Read the label before you pick up a bag at the drug store with an eye to avoid ingredients like fructose or corn syrup. Sugary cough drops will provide a food source for the bacteria that cause cavities. If you are sucking on them all day long for a cough, you will increase your risk for  tooth decay.

Swish and Spit After Vomiting

One unfortunate side effect of a stomach flu, among other illnesses, is vomiting. Avoid brushing immediately or within 30 minutes of vomiting. The acids in your mouth can contribute to erosion of your enamel if you brush too soon.

Instead, swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water and 1 tsp. baking soda to help wash the acid away. Spit, and brush about 30 minutes later.

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Dry Mouth

When you’re sick, you need plenty of fluids for many reasons. One is to prevent dry mouth. Not only is it uncomfortable—dry mouth can also put you at greater risk for cavities. The medications you might be taking for a cold or flu—such as antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers—can also dry out your mouth, so drink plenty of water and suck on sugarless cough drops, throat lozenges or candies to keep that saliva flowing.

Choose the Right Fluids

When it comes to your mouth and your body, one beverage is always best. Water. Sports drinks , although good for your electrolyte balance and rehydration, can have a high sugar and acid concentration and can contribute to erosion and tooth decay risk.

You might also want something to warm you up. Tea with honey is very soothing for a sore throat or an upset tummy. Limit the sweetener in your tea to keep your teeth healthy and strong.

Dental Appointments

Dental visits for cleanings, fillings and crowns can be very challenging when you are congested and can’t breathe well through your nose. The same is true for an acute cough. Consider deferring your visit until you feel better.

Duvall Family Dental


Dr. Jessica H.Y. Chen

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