Although the worst of winter should now be in the past, the 2014 flu season is expected to continue for at least another month. According to the CDC, this year’s flu season has been particularly bad, due to fewer people getting the flu vaccine and to new strains of the virus traveling around. When you’re sick, one of the last things you might be thinking about is the health of your smile. The periodontists at Gallardo & Lamas Periodontics and Implants Dentistry in Miami, Florida, offer tips to keep your smile healthy even during flu season.
Care for Your Toothbrush
Storing your toothbrush properly and replacing it often will help prevent the spread of the flu virus and bacteria that causes common infections, such as strep throat. After you brush your teeth, whether you are sick or not, rinse the toothbrush well in clean water to remove any debris or toothpaste.
Store the brush upright in an open holder, so that the bristles can dry. A closed off container creates a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. Try to keep toothbrushes separated so that the germs on one brush don’t travel to another toothbrush. Make sure the heads of toothbrushes don’t touch, for example. Never share toothbrushes, even with other members of your family.
Although you might want to disinfect your toothbrush after using it, the CDC actually recommends not doing so. Certain disinfecting products, such as UV lights, can damage the brush. Putting the toothbrush in the microwave, dishwasher or a pot of boiling water can also damage it. Dipping the bristles of the brush in mouthwash isn’t recommended either, as there’s the risk of cross-contamination. If you want a completely clean toothbrush, your best option is to get a new one.
The risk of you re-infecting yourself with the same virus is very low after you have the flu or a cold. Your body builds up antibodies that allow you to fight the same infection. You do run the risk of being exposed to another strain of the virus, and becoming ill again. To be on the safe side, it might be a good idea to replace your toothbrush with a new one after you have the flu. At the very least, remember to replace your toothbrush every three months, or once the bristles start showing signs of wear.
Cleaning Your Teeth and Tongue
When you have the flu or a nasty cold, you typically don’t want to get out of bed or move very much. No matter how terrible you feel, brushing your teeth when ill is essential. You’ll also want to clean your tongue, either using a toothbrush or a tongue scraper. The tongue tends to harbor a lot of bacteria and viruses.
Some of the products designed to make you feel better when you’re sick, such as cough drops or cough syrup, are actually bad news for your teeth. Cough drops usually contain a good amount of sugar, as do cough syrups.
Try to use sugar-free cough drops or limit the amount of cough drops you take to avoid increasing your risk for tooth decay when sick. After you take a dose of cough syrup or another liquid medicine, rinse your mouth out to reduce the amount of sugar that sticks to your teeth.
Avoiding Dry Mouth
Nasal congestion when you’re ill can leave you with a dry mouth. A dry mouth increases your risk for cavities and gumdisease. A decongestant can help clear up your nasal passages so that you don’t rely on breathing through your mouth. Drinking an ample amount of water during your illness can also help you avoid dry mouth.
Preventing the Flu
When it comes to the flu, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s not too late to get a flu shot for the season, for example. If you do get sick, reduce the chance that you’ll spread the virus or infection to others by staying home for at least one day. Along with brushing your teeth regularly, wash your hands often to remove any germs and lower the chance that you’ll spread the virus.
The health of your smile reflects the health of your body overall. To learn more about how to care for your teeth during flu season, as well as the impact gum disease can have on your health, contact Gallardo & Lamas in Miami for a consultation today. Call the office at 305-447-1447 for an appointment.