Since there's still no cure for the common cold there's not much you can do other than treat the symptoms and wait it out. It's not fun, but at least it's temporary. However, the last thing you want is to recover from your cold only to find yourself stuck in the dentist's chair having a cavity filled. Unlike a cold, tooth decay doesn't go away on its own, and while you might not think of the two as being related, sometimes they are. Take a look at some ways that a cold can affect your tooth health and how you can prevent those negative effects.
When you have a cold that comes with a stuffy nose, dry mouth is a common side effect – you wind up breathing through your mouth, which dries out the tissues inside your mouth. You probably notice it most in the morning, when you wake up feeling especially parched.
Dry mouth can be more than just a minor annoyance, though. Saliva performs an important tooth health function: it washes away cavity-causing bacteria that can lead to cavities. When you spend a few nights sleeping with your mouth open, those bacteria have free rein for hours a night to spread decay in your mouth. This can result in a cavity.
Make sure to increase your water intake while you're sick – the more hydrated you are, the longer it will take for your mouth to dry out. Choose tap water instead of bottled water – the fluoride in the tap water helps harden enamel and makes it less susceptible to decay. The more protection your teeth have, the better.
A bad cough can make you miserable during the day and leave you sleepless at night. Luckily, there are plenty of over-the-counter cough remedies that can help. Cough syrups and cough drops can provide much-needed relief. Unfortunately, they can also be hard on your teeth.
As far as your teeth are concerned, cough drops aren't much different than hard candy, and cough syrups can be as damaging as a soda. These cough remedies contain sugars and flavorings like citric acid to make them more palatable, but those sugars and acids also promote tooth decay. Some cough syrups also contain alcohol, which can contribute to the dry mouth problem.
You probably can't avoid cough remedies while you're sick, but you can take steps to minimize the problem. Choose cough medicine in pill form if it's available. Brush your teeth after taking cough syrup or finishing a cough drop, or if you're away from home, rinse your mouth out with water and chew a piece of sugar-free gum afterwards.
The beginning of cold and flu season is a good time to schedule one of your twice-yearly dental checkups, especially if you're highly susceptible to colds. Talk with a dentist, like Hughes Thomas R, for more information.