There have been between 9.2 million and 35.6 million cases of the flu since 2010, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates. Along with a high fever, chills, aches, pains, and general fatigue, the flu can result in the near-inability to tackle your normal daily activities. This includes routine dental care.
Before tossing your brush aside the next time that the flu hits you, take a look at the whys and hows of keeping your mouth healthy during an extreme illness.
The flu is caused by a virus. But that isn’t the only microorganism living in your body when you’re sick. Your mouth is filled with bacteria. Most oral bacteria are harmless and won’t lead to serious problems, but when the bacteria get out of balance, they can cause dental decay.
Regularly brushing and flossing your teeth helps to remove particles of food that the bacteria feed on, reducing the likelihood of developing cavities. Even though the virus in your body makes getting out of bed difficult, skipping out on your regular brushing routine could lead to an overgrowth of bacteria.
While a few days of poor oral care won’t necessarily lead to decay, it can start a vicious cycle that results in damage or dental caries.
Clean the Brush
Using your toothbrush twice a day for two minutes each time helps to keep your mouth clean — whether you’re already sick or not.
Under normal conditions, a quick rinse of your brush can remove leftover food particles and microorganisms that may linger. But if you’re sick, the flu virus may stay stuck to the bristles or back of the brush. Not only can the virus transfer from your mouth to the head of the brush, but you can also transport it from your fingers to the brush’s handle.
According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on hard surfaces for as long as 48 hours. While you won’t re-infect yourself during mid-flu illness, your germ-covered brush can infect other members of your household — especially if you keep all of the family’s toothbrushes in the same cup or holder.
Help everyone else in your household to stay safe and healthy by cleaning your brush off well. If you keep your brush in close quarters with other people’s brushes, find a new place to stash the dental device during your illness.
The flu can quickly lead to dehydration. Along with dehydration due to nasal symptoms, some people (especially children) may experience vomiting too. A dry mouth makes it challenging for your body to wash away leftover food particles and microorganisms in the mouth. This increases the likelihood of developing dental decay or disease.
Sip on hydrating liquids, such as water, during the day to keep your body quenched. This can reduce the chances of developing decay-causing dry mouth. Avoid drinking soda or sports drinks. These contain high amounts of sugar, making it easier for oral bacteria to take over and cause dental damage. Even though orange juice is a sick-day staple, it’s also extremely high in sugar. Again, this can also lead to dental caries.
Select Sugar-Free Options
Beverages aren’t the only culprits behind dental decay. The cough drops that are soothing your sore throat are also bathing your teeth and gums in sugar. This creates the ideal environment for bacteria to grow and flourish.
Regular cough drops are basically hard sugar candies. Choose drops that are labeled sugar-free to reduce the risks associated with sugar and dental decay.
Do your teeth need a professional-level cleaning following an illness? Contact the office of Dr. Kenneth Schweizer DDS, PA, for more information.