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David M. Rizk, DDS

How Colds and The Flu Impact Oral Health

added on: December 13, 2023

The changing seasons often bring with them an unwelcome guest – the cold and flu viruses. While the physical toll is widely known, what many may not realize is that these common illnesses can also have a significant impact on oral health. Join your dentist in El Paso as we explore the connection between colds, flu, and the well-being of your teeth and gums.

Weakening the Immune System

One of the first ways the cold and flu affect oral health is by compromising the body’s natural defense mechanisms. When someone is battling these infections, their immune system is working overtime to fight off the invading viruses. Unfortunately, this heightened state of alertness can result in a decrease in saliva production. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health by neutralizing acids, washing away debris, and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. A dry mouth, a common side effect of illnesses, creates an environment conducive to bacterial growth, increasing the risk of cavities and other dental issues.

Medication Side Effects

When illness strikes, people often turn to over-the-counter medications to alleviate the symptoms of cold and flu. While these medications can bring relief, many of them come in the form of sugar-filled syrups or chewable tablets. The high sugar content in these medicines can contribute to tooth decay, especially if someone’s oral hygiene routine is compromised during illness. Additionally, some medications may cause dry mouth as a side effect, compounding the problem and making it essential for patients to be vigilant in maintaining their oral health routine during sickness. Talk to your dentist in El Paso to find sugar-free alternatives. 

Nutritional Shortcomings

When we feel under the weather, our appetites may take a hit. We may not feel like eating or may prefer soft, comforting foods over nutritious options. This change in dietary habits, coupled with a weakened immune system, can impact the health of their teeth. Whether it’s sipping on sugary hot chocolate or indulging in ice cream to soothe a sore throat, these treats can contribute to dental issues. Sugary foods and beverages provide a feast for bacteria in the mouth, leading to the production of acids that attack tooth enamel. However, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, play a crucial role in maintaining oral health. A lack of these essential nutrients can hinder the body’s ability to fight off infections and promote healthy teeth and gums.

Maintaining Oral Hygiene During Illness

Despite the challenges posed by colds and flu, it’s crucial to maintain good oral hygiene habits, even when you’re feeling under the weather. Continue to brush and floss regularly, find sugar-free medications when possible, and drink fluids to safeguard oral health during illness. 

While the cold and flu are often unavoidable, being aware of their potential impact on oral health empowers you to take proactive measures. By addressing the challenges posed by these common illnesses, you can better navigate through sickness without compromising your dental well-being. Through a combination of maintaining good oral hygiene practices, making mindful food choices, seeking sugar-free medications when possible, and keeping up with regular checkups with your dentist in El Paso, patients can ensure that the effects of colds and flu are limited to the respiratory system and not extended to their smiles.


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