Chances are, you will catch a cold or get the flu several times throughout your lifetime. Adults catch anywhere from two to three colds each year, and children are even more susceptible to getting sick. In fact, the U.S. Library of Medicine says that there are more than one billion colds in the nation annually.
While there are a wide variety of prescription and over-the-counter cold and flu remedies that can relieve symptoms, you should choose wisely. This is because cold and flu remedies can negatively affect your mouth and oral health. Every time you catch a cold or the flu and take medicine to relieve the symptoms of those contagious illnesses, you may be putting your teeth at risk.
Tooth Pain from Colds, Influenza, and Sinus Infections
The flu, common colds, and even sinus infections can cause pain around your teeth and gums. Sometimes when you’re sick, your throat and mouth feel dry. This can cause your teeth and oral cavity to feel sensitive. Sinus infections are especially notorious for causing tooth pain because the inflammation of your nasal passages is often accompanied by a sinus infection. This inflammation can also cause inflammation and pressure pain in your mouth.
Common Cold and Flu Medications That Cause Dental Problems
There are many different prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs that treat cold and flu symptoms. These medications have their own set of side effects that can permanently affect your teeth, gums, and overall dental health.
Cough Drops and Syrups
While cough drops, throat lozenges, and cough syrups can give you temporary comfort when you’re sick, they can cause some serious side effects for your teeth. These types of cold and flu medications have high sugar or high fructose corn syrup content to help make them taste better. The point of cough drops and lozenges is to dissolve in your mouth slowly, which gives the sugar and corn syrup more time to coat your teeth. Sugar that is not brushed or rinsed away can cause an acid attack on teeth, leading to cavities and tooth decay.
Nasal congestion is a common cold and flu symptom. Decongestants, like Vicks or Sudafed, can relieve nasal congestion but cause dry mouth. This, combined with the likelihood that you are already breathing through your mouth more than usual due to your stuffy nose, means a very dry mouth. Your saliva coats your teeth and oral cavity, protecting it from bacteria growth. A dry mouth promotes the growth of bacteria and increases your chances of developing bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss.
Orange Juice and Other Vitamin C Supplements
Orange juice and other citrus juices contain vitamin C, which supports your immune system. Vitamin C is thought to prevent illness, and even help treat or shorten cold and flu symptoms. However, these juices also contain citric acid, which similar to sugar, can dissolve the tough outer enamel layer of your teeth and lead to tooth decay.
Antibiotics are not used to treat the common cold or the flu. However, a doctor might prescribe an antibiotic to a patient who is suffering from cold or flu complications, such as bacterial pneumonia, sinusitis, or an ear infection. Children are especially at risk of being affected by antibiotics. Antibiotics, such as tetracycline and doxycycline, can discolor teeth in children. Amoxicillin, a common antibiotic used to treat ear infections, is also linked to fluorosis in children. Antibiotics can disturb the pH in your mouth, and may cause oral thrush, which is a fungal infection that causes a thick coating in the mouth.
Treating Cold and Flu While Maintaining Your Smile
While you may feel like you can’t treat your cold or flu without risking damage to your smile, you can still have the best of both worlds. In order to reap the full benefits of your medications while keeping your teeth and gums strong, there are a few best practices you should follow:
- Rinse your mouth with water after using cough drops, lozenges, or cough syrup. This will keep sugars from eating away at your tooth enamel.
- Always follow your doctor’s instructions for prescription medications.
- Brush your teeth regularly, and look for signs of thrush and other negative effects of medications.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water and fluids to prevent dry mouth while you’re sick.
- Talk to your dentist to learn more about how cold and flu remedies affect your smile, and if using these medications has affected your oral health.
- Never skip your dental checkups so that your dentist can keep a close eye on your dental health all year.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.