Why You Need To Keep Up With Dental Hygiene When You’re Sick

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

October 24, 2023

dental care, dental hygiene, dental hygiene when you're sick, oral care

When you get sick, it usually disrupts your daily routine to some degree. Some of the things you usually do suddenly don’t seem that important, including your oral care routine. The last thing you want to do when you’re feeling under the weather is spend time on dental hygiene, but this is precisely the time you need to stay diligent.

If you let your dental care take a back seat when you’re not feeling well, you may end up with issues that will follow you after you’re feeling better again. There are some specific conditions that can develop when you’re ill that influence your oral health, which is why it’s so important to keep up with dental hygiene when you’re sick.

Common Oral Health Problems When You’re Sick

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When you have an illness, there are some common situations that can develop that may affect your oral health in a negative way. If you have the flu or similar illness that causes vomiting, the stomach acid can weaken your tooth enamel and lead to dental erosion. Another common problem during an illness is having a dry mouth. If this happens, saliva production will be less, leading to possible issues with food particles being stuck in your teeth, bacterial growth, and an increased risk of tooth decay and gum inflammation.

If you’re on any medications to combat the symptoms of your illness, they may include side effects that have an effect on your oral health. Be sure to ask your pharmacist about possible side effects like dry mouth or inflamed gums when filling your prescription. If you’re using any over-the-counter medications, be sure to read the list of potential side effects closely. Another issue that may pop up while your immune system is engaged in fighting off the infection or illness is bacterial growth. Your immune system can only do so much at a time, and you may be more susceptible to oral bacterial infections during certain illnesses.

The key to avoiding these issues and others is to take your dental hygiene seriously throughout the duration of your illness. Even when you’re feeling yucky and don’t want to bother, make a point of staying on your regular oral hygiene schedule. Here are some other useful tips that can help maintain your dental care when you’re sick.

How To Keep Up With Dental Hygiene When You’re Sick

Use A Soft-Bristled Toothbrush

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This should be part of your protocol whether you’re sick or not, but it’s even more important when you are sick. Soft bristles will cause less discomfort and irritation to your teeth and gums, which will allow you to continue brushing at least twice a day and keeping up with your dental hygiene routine.

Rinse Out Your Mouth Completely

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If you are vomiting as part of your illness, you’ll probably want to brush your teeth immediately afterward to get rid of the unpleasant taste and feel in your mouth. However, if you brush your teeth right away, there’s a chance that residual stomach acid could get rubbed further into your teeth and gums, damaging the enamel. Before you brush, rinse your mouth out thoroughly with water so any stomach acid is no longer in your mouth.

Stay Hydrated

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It’s not uncommon to become dehydrated when you’re sick, but this is another situation that can have negative effects on your oral health. Not only is being dehydrated uncomfortable, but it can lead to dry mouth and the dental problems that accompany it. Be sure to sip water throughout the day to ensure you prevent dehydration from setting in and get on the road to recovery quicker. And stay away from sugary drinks, as they can have negative effects.

Gargle With Warm Salt Water

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If you take some time to gargle with salt water a few times a day, you can help remove unwanted and potentially harmful bacteria in your mouth. Gargling with salt water can also help soothe a sore throat, which helps relieve discomfort. Try using 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water to get the most benefit, and never swallow it after gargling.

Choose Sugar-Free Medicines

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Many medicines tend to have added sweeteners in them to make them taste better. Of course, this is only going to have a negative effect on your dental health, so be sure to choose sugar-free varieties whenever possible. With over-the-counter medications, just read the labels to find out how much sugar is in them, and if you must use one that has sugar, rinse your mouth out well afterward with fresh water.

Keep An Eye On Your Nutrition

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If you are still eating during your illness, try not to fall into the trap of unhealthy comfort foods too often. Not only are they not conducive to fast healing, but they often have added sugar and other ingredients that will damage your oral health. Instead, opt for nutrient-rich foods that will maintain your oral health and help your body fight off infections for faster healing.

Get Enough Rest

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Since your body is working hard to rid itself of the illness, it’s vital to get as much rest as possible so your immune system can do its job well. Quality rest is also important for your oral health, so take the time to rest your body and recuperate properly.

Get A New Toothbrush Once You’re Well

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Once your illness is behind you, make sure you get rid of the toothbrush you were using while you were sick. You don’t want any residual bacteria or other remnants of your illness being reintroduced to your mouth. It’s also important to rinse off your toothbrush thoroughly every time you use it during your illness.

Keep Scheduled Dental Appointments

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You may want to just stay in bed and relax when you’re sick and skip any scheduled dental appointments, but that’s not a good idea. If you’re able, keep your appointments and if you have to reschedule, try to get in as soon as possible so you don’t have any issues moving forward.

You’ll Feel Better Before You Know It

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One of the things to keep in mind about dental hygiene when you’re sick is that the illness isn’t going to last forever, but your dental health is something that you need to take care of for the rest of your life. When you’re feeling like your old self again, you’ll be happy that you followed these helpful tips and maintained your dental hygiene routine.

Give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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