Influenza is making a particular impact this year, and experts say it’s not going away any time soon. You’ll find lots of good advice online for home care, so here’s some additional advice that doesn’t get as much coverage. When you’re under the weather, your oral health is probably the last thing you want to think about; these tips can help you keep your teeth and gums healthy, even when your body is fighting off infection.
Knoxville dentist Dr. Ruth Bailey hopes you stay well during flu season. If you do come down with the illness, follow these tips to make sure your week of bed rest doesn’t mean the start of a new cavity. Call us at 865-588-1294 to schedule a check-up.
Push the Fluids, Water Especially
When you are feeling so poorly that you don’t want to eat, its easy to let yourself get dehydrated, as well. Drink a lot of plain water to give your body the hydration it needs to work optimally and purge the sickness from your system. Drinking plain water is also better for your teeth and gums than sodas or sports drinks, so make sure you have some on hand at all times.
Rest is Best—But Mind the Teeth!
Doctors advise us to rest when we are sick, because it allows our bodies to focus all our energy on fighting off the virus. Long naps and bed rest are also a great way to escape how crummy you feel while your body is healing.
From an oral hygiene perspective, you will want to make sure you aren’t filling your mouth with sugars before you take long naps. Even if you aren’t eating very much, sweetened or citrus beverages can still damage your teeth. We naturally produce less saliva when we sleep, so your mouth won’t be actively rinsing and neutralizing bacteria as much as usual. Any sugar residue in the mouth before you sleep will give bacteria the chance to feast unchecked for hours at a time.
If you are drinking sweetened drinks (ginger ale, sports drinks, or tea with honey and lemon), be mindful not to drink them immediately before you fall asleep. Brushing your teeth before a nap is ideal, but even if you just take a moment to rinse your mouth out with water, this will help curb bacterial growth.
Non-Routine Oral Hygiene
You may feel absolutely terrible when you are sick, but you still need to find a way to brush and floss. It may be tempting to think that you don’t need to brush your teeth if you aren’t consuming any foods—but mouth bacteria don’t take sick days! Any sugars or starches you consume will feed the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. Cough drops, sugary cough syrup, vitamin C tablets, chicken soup; these can all harm your enamel if they sit on the teeth too long.
Your whole routine gets thrown off when you are ill, so your oral hygiene routine may go out the window, as well. This is okay, but you can still brush and floss each day.
If you can’t bring yourself to get out of bed, ask someone to bring you your toothbrush, floss, water and a cup. Bed-side oral hygiene is better than no oral hygiene. Try to complete at least a cursory brushing and flossing once a day, even if it’s not at your usual times. Use less toothpaste, or even no toothpaste, if that’s what it takes.
Another good idea is to remind yourself to brush and floss when you get up to use the bathroom. No matter how sick you feel, you’ll find the energy to get to the bathroom when nature calls! Take advantage of the trip and perform a brushing before you return to your sick bed. You may not need to get up again for the rest of the day, so it’s better brush in the middle of the day than not at all.
Getting Back on Your Feet
We know oral hygiene is your last concern when you’re fighting the flu, but follow these tips and you’ll keep your teeth and gums protected.
- Find a way to brush and floss every day, even if it’s not your normal time or location.
- Bed-side oral hygiene is better than no oral hygiene.
- Take sips of water to keep your mouth moist.
- Keep water on hand to rinse your mouth out after drinking sugar-containing beverages or medicines.
If you have recently been down with the flu, and are concerned you may have let your oral hygiene slide for several days in a row, visit Knoxville dentist Dr. Ruth Bailey. She will help you make sure your teeth are still in good shape. We will examine your teeth for any signs of calcified plaque or demineralization and apply a fluoride treatment to strengthen your enamel. Call us at 865-588-1294 to make an appointment.