Increased dental risks during cold & flu season

Young woman sick in bed with tissue
During the cold and flu season, there are a couple things you should keep in mind regarding your dental health.

As important as it is to get adequate rest when you’re not feeling well, putting in the time to take care of your oral health should be a priority, because a variety of dental concerns can come along with sickness. If you are fighting the cold or flu and your immune system is weakened, the last thing you are probably thinking about is oral hygiene, but cleaning your teeth and gums should not be neglected.

There are three main reasons why your oral health suffers when you’re sick: increased sugar intake, dry mouth, and vomiting.

Increased Sugar Intake

Sugar is often the main ingredient in liquid cold medications, as well as cough drops and drinks that replenish electrolytes or replace meals. The increased sugar intake (coupled with the fact that you may be foregoing your regular tooth brushing routine) means that there is a good chance of increased bacteria in your mouth.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a side-effect of many medications that are commonly taken for cold and flu symptoms. When there is not enough saliva in your mouth to balance the pH balance, bacteria thrives and the tooth decay is likely. In addition, when you are congested, you tend to breathe through your mouth at night, which dries it out. Dry mouth is perhaps one of the least-recognized causes of tooth decay, and so perhaps the most important one to be aware of.


Lastly, vomiting is not only unpleasant, but it can wreak havoc on your teeth. Stomach acids sit on the enamel and start to break it down, so it’s important to remember to rinse your mouth with water immediately after.

A few steps to keep in mind when you have the cold and flu will make a big difference in your oral health:

  1. Try to take your medicine in pill-form and make sure that your lozenges are sugar-free. Be wary of drinks that replenish electrolytes or replace meals. These are typically loaded with sugar.
  2. Drink water throughout the day to keep your mouth lubricated, and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva-production.
  3. If vomiting is an issue, do not brush for at least 30 minutes after, as the acid is still on your teeth and using a toothbrush can cause serious damage to the enamel. Instead, immediately rinse your mouth with water. If you want to get rid of the bad taste in your mouth right away, chew sugar-free gum or use mouthwash.

Although it takes extra effort to take care of your teeth when you just want to stay in bed and get well, those few minutes a day will be enough to prevent cavities and gum disease from taking hold while you’re at increased risk. If you follow the easy steps listed above, you can enjoy a healthy mouth along with your recovery.