All across the United States, and even here in sunny San Diego, flu season is here. This year’s flu is the most widespread on record since health officials began keeping track 13 years ago. While seasonal influenza (flu) viruses can be detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of each year’s flu season can vary, but most of the time, flu activity peaks between December and February.
During the second week of January, more people sought care for flu-like illnesses than at any comparable period in nearly a decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent weekly report shows. While you are sick, we know it is tempting to stay in bed and dismiss your regular oral hygiene routine in order to get some rest. But keeping up your brushing and flossing routine is actually even more important! If you are sick, you may need to give your teeth some extra attention to make sure that they stay healthy even though you are not.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
#1 – Maintain Your Brushing and Flossing Routine
If you are unfortunate enough to have a stomach flu that causes vomiting, be sure to brush your teeth well. Acid is bad for your teeth, and while it isn’t the nicest topic to talk about, stomach acid can erode enamel.
Remember that certain medications may affect the health of your mouth. Some medications can cause symptoms like dry mouth or affect your ability to taste. Cough drops and liquid medicines often contain sugar for flavor. Sugar-free cough drops are better option. If possible, take medicine with a meal or rinse or brush after use.
#2 – Stay Hydrated
Not only is this good for your body, but it’s good for your oral health too. Be sure to drink plenty of water to keep your body and mouth hydrated, and try to keep your nasal passages clear. If you are congested or dehydrated, saliva production decreases and you can end up with dry mouth. A dry mouth is at an increased risk for cavities because saliva is necessary to wash away food/drink particles and bacteria between brushing.
#3 – Disinfect
Disinfect your bite guard. If necessary, over-the-counter bite guards can be replaced easily, but soaking bite guards or retainers that are meant to last for years in an antiseptic mouthwash is a good idea. However, do not use hot water on them, as that may cause the plastic to soften and lose its shape. You can also contact your dentist’s office to ask for help disinfecting retainers or bite guards with cold sterilization.
#4 – Take Care of Your Toothbrush
Thoroughly rinse toothbrushes with tap water to remove toothpaste and debris after each use, and store upright to air-dry. Do not cover the toothbrush or place in a closed container while still wet, as this will allow for the growth of more microorganisms than the open air.
Never share toothbrushes with another person, and do not store your toothbrush where it can touch another person’s toothbrush. This can lead to cross-contamination and the spreading of illnesses.
Replace your toothbrush following a cold or bout of illness. Although some studies have shown that reinfection is unlikely, toothbrushes have been shown to grow and harbor bacteria…so better safe than sorry. If more than one toothbrush is stored in the same area, be sure they are separated to avoid spreading the virus to others.
To minimize your risk of catching the flu:
1) Wash your hands often with soap & warm water
2) Cover your nose & mouth when you cough or sneeze
3) Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
4) Wash your hands before eating
5) Do not share your food, drink, or utensils with others
6) Avoid close contact with sick people
We always encourage our patients to reschedule if they are sick on the day of their appointment. It is best avoid exposing office staff and other patients to infection; plus, you will recover better (and hopefully faster!) by staying home and resting. If you have an appointment with McGann Facial Design, and on the day of your appointment you find that you are ill or have a fever, please contact our office.
We hope you stay well this cold and flu season (and all year-round). But if you do get sick, we hope you take care of yourself, recover quickly, and remember to take care of your smile too, you’ll need it when you’re feeling better.