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Exploring the Impact of Cold and Flu on Oral Health

added on: December 6, 2023

As the chilly winds of winter sweep in, so does the dreaded season of colds and the flu. While most of us are familiar with the typical symptoms – runny noses, coughs, and fatigue – few may realize the significant impact these illnesses can have on our oral health. The connection between the common cold, the flu, and oral health is a topic often overlooked, but your dentist in  Toledo wants to help you understand how these illnesses can affect our teeth and gums.


One of the primary ways colds and the flu influence oral health is through dehydration. When we fall sick with these illnesses, our bodies often experience increased temperatures and heightened activity in the immune system, leading to dehydration. The lack of proper hydration can result in decreased saliva production. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health by washing away bacteria, neutralizing acids, and helping with digestion. Insufficient saliva can pave the way for the growth of harmful bacteria, ultimately leading to cavities and gum disease.


Moreover, the medications commonly used to alleviate cold and flu symptoms can contribute to oral health issues. Decongestants, for instance, can lead to a dry mouth, further reducing saliva production. Antihistamines, often found in cold medications, can also cause dry mouth as a side effect. Dry mouth not only makes it easier for bacteria to thrive, but it can also result in bad breath, making an already uncomfortable situation even more unpleasant.

Cough Drops

Another factor to consider is the impact of cough drops and syrups on oral health. While these are essential for soothing a sore throat and suppressing coughs, they are often loaded with sugar to make them taste better. The prolonged exposure of teeth to sugary substances can lead to tooth decay and cavities. It’s crucial to maintain good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing, to mitigate the potential damage caused by these sugary remedies.


Furthermore, the body’s immune response to colds and the flu can indirectly affect oral health. The inflammatory response triggered by these illnesses can affect the entire body, including the gums. Increased inflammation can lead to gingivitis or exacerbate existing gum disease. It’s not uncommon for individuals with compromised immune systems or pre-existing oral health issues to experience more severe consequences during bouts of illness.

How to Protect Oral Health During Cold And Flu Season

First and foremost, staying hydrated is key. Drinking water helps maintain saliva production, preventing dry mouth and promoting a healthier oral environment. Choose sugar-free lozenges and cough syrups when possible to minimize the risk of tooth decay. Additionally, maintaining a consistent oral hygiene routine is crucial. Brushing teeth twice a day and flossing can help keep bacteria at bay and prevent the development of cavities and gum disease.

For those taking medications that contribute to dry mouth, consider talking to a healthcare professional about potential solutions. They may recommend alternative medications or suggest additional measures to alleviate dry mouth symptoms. Regular dental check-ups with your dentist in  Toledo are also essential, especially during cold and flu season, to address any emerging issues before they escalate.

The impact of colds and the flu on oral health is often underestimated. By understanding the connections and taking proactive measures, you can navigate the winter months with greater awareness and safeguard your oral health even when the rest of the body is under the weather. 

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