Man feeling bad lying in the bed and coughing

Keeping Your Teeth Healthy During Flu Season

Every year around this time a nasty bug rolls through Melbourne, Florida. Many people make sure they do everything they can to keep themselves from contracting the flu, however many still fall prey to the common and, in some cases, dangerous virus. People understand that the flu is a serious illness, yet they may not realize that it can also cause severe damage to your teeth as well. While it’s important to focus on letting your body heal from the virus it’s also very important to pay attention to your oral health while you’re infirmed with the flu.

What is the Flu?

The flu or, Influenza, is a contagious respiratory virus that affects millions of people every year. This condition can be fatal  for children or the elderly as they have immature and compromised immune systems. It is characterized by a sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, muscle aches, fatigue, vomiting, and in some cases diarrhea and fever. With a healthy immune system, a case of influenza can be cleared from the body in as little as two days, for most adults the virus can remain in the body for up to two weeks. The flu virus is so dangerous because complications from the flu can be life threatening. Conditions such as pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, heart, and muscle tissues, organ shutdown, and even sepsis are possible and fatal consequences of contracting the flu. There are many documented cases of death and discomfort caused by the flu, yet many people don’t understand its connection to the mouth. However, the entire time this disease is ravaging the body, it is causing harm to the oral cavity.

How Does The Flu Affect My Teeth?

Where the flu directly damages the brain and muscles through inflammation, it indirectly damages the teeth. It does not matter that this damage is circumstantial because the damage is still done. Because the flu virus inflames the digestive system and causes vomiting, it puts stomach acid in contact with the teeth. This can be problematic because frequent vomiting washes the teeth in acid for a prolonged period of time. This acid can begin the erosion of enamel and lead to cavities. Most people stay close to their toothbrushes if they contract the flu, and this is extremely important. Brushing your teeth after vomiting removes the acid that can cause cavities and freshens your breath simultaneously.

Another symptom of the flu is constricted airways. When the immune system is fighting off influenza nasal passages and the respiratory system become congested. This can cause blockages in the nose. While this is uncomfortable in the daytime, at night it can lead to snoring.  

Snoring causes much damage to the teeth because it dries the mouth out. One of saliva’s many jobs in the mouth is to wash away bacteria that causes periodontal disease and tooth decay. When it dries up, plaque and bacteria are able to reproduce unencumbered and speed the digestion of sugars present in sports drinks commonly used to rehydrate a person who is sick with the flu, or in lozenges used to sooth a sore throat. Snoring when you’re not sick can cause the development of cavities, but snoring when you have the flu can prove to be a bacterial buffet that can lead to more lasting problems than even the flu. While you are sick it is impossible to stop yourself from snoring. You can minimize your chances and open your airways slightly by propping your head up on another pillow, but the most important thing you can do is to brush your teeth before you go to bed for the night, and when you wake up. This will remove the bacteria and ready you for another day of immune system battle.

Your Toothbrush

The flu virus is harbored in the mucus in your respiratory system, therefore it comes in contact with your teeth and mouth every day you are infected. When people get the flu, they don’t stop brushing their teeth, in fact if they are frequently vomiting and snoring while they sleep they may be using their toothbrushes more than ever. These two flu symptoms make the toothbrush the most utilized tool in an infected person’s fight against the flu, and subsequently puts your toothbrush in a direct line of fire. The flu virus can live for up to 24 hours on a hard surface outside of the human body. If you’re brushing your teeth at least twice a day, and in some cases more than twice a day, the virus can live happily on your toothbrush and undermine your health every time you clean your teeth. It is important to discard a toothbrush after you have battled the flu, or any other sickness. When you feel like you’re getting better, switch it out. It doesn’t hurt to go so far as to replace that tooth brush once you are back to your healthy self – just to be safe.

The flu is a potentially fatal and certainly nasty virus to contract. Along with compromising everything from your digestive, cardiovascular, and immune systems it can also have a profound effect on your oral health. This flu season, make sure you take care of your teeth as you take care of your body. Brush your teeth thoroughly and don’t forget to replace your toothbrush once you’re body has eradicated the influenza.