Does Having a Cold and Flu Hurt my Teeth?

Cold and flu season is in full swing in Kamloops. Many of us have experienced sleepless nights with a cough that won’t stop, a stuffy head that makes breathing impossible, and a runny nose that has us constantly reaching for tissues. We are all aware of how the common cold and flu can wreak havoc on the body, but did you know how these bugs affect your oral health? Read on to learn how to deal with these issues and protect your teeth.

Nasal Congestion and Dry Mouth

The cold and flu bugs have taken up residence in your sinuses, so when you finally lay down to rest, you’re too stuffed up to breathe through your nose. Instead, you have to breathe through your mouth, leaving you feeling parched all night.  Cold and flu symptoms are a major cause of dry mouth, but medications such as decongestants may make it worse. And when the mouth is dry, bacteria grow faster, increasing your risk of gingivitis and tooth decay.

To combat dry mouth during a cold or flu, continue using decongestants as indicated, they will help in the long run. But make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Humidifiers are also crucial, especially in a dry climate like Kamloops. They add moisture to the air and help soothe dry tissues.

When cold and flu symptoms start, I also recommend using a nasal rinse such as the NeilMed Sinus Rinse products available at any drugstore. Make sure you use previously-boiled or distilled water with the saline packets. Nasal rinsing significantly reduces congestion, as well as post-nasal drip which often causes sore throats.

Sinus Pain and Toothaches

cold and flu

Don’t be fooled, cold and flu symptoms often mimic tooth pain! The telltale sign is when the pain isn’t limited to just one tooth. Other symptoms include pain and pressure around the face and eyes and nasal congestion. Acute sinus infections often resolve on their own, but sometimes require antibiotics. Please keep in mind, your dentist isn’t able to prescribe those antibiotics as the infection isn’t tooth-related, so speak to your family doctor.

Keep on Top of Your Oral Hygiene

gingivitisAlthough you might not feel up to it when sick, keep up with your oral care. Allowing plaque to build-up not only puts you at risk for gingivitis and tooth decay, but also encourages bacterial growth. This means a slower recovery from the cold and flu because your immune system is dealing with your mouth instead of fighting the cold or flu. Stick with your regular brushing and flossing routine. And if you really don’t have the energy, try a soothing mouth rinse.

Our team at Horizon Dental would be happy to help you achieve optimal oral health and we are happily accepting new patients. You can contact us by clicking here or visit our Facebook and Instagram pages for updates and fun contests.

Cannabis And Your Oral Health

As of October 17, 2018, cannabis is legal in Canada! Estimates say that 15% of Canadians use cannabis (marijuana) for recreational or therapeutic purposes and it can be consumed by smoking, vaporizing, within food, or as an extract. Smoking marijuana typically has a more immediate, short-lived effect, whereas “edibles” exhibit effects more slowly that often last longer. So how does cannabis use affect your oral health?

Whether or not you use cannabis for fun or as part of a comprehensive medical treatment, there are several oral health effects I think we should all be aware of:

  • Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Saliva is our natural mouth-cleaning system – it dilutes and washes away food and acids that cause erosion and cavities. Cannabis reduces saliva production, putting you at a higher risk of tooth-wear or erosion and tooth-sensitivity, and sometimes results in bad breath and difficulty swallowing.
  • Periodontal (gum) disease: Inflammation caused by smoke inhalation (tobacco or cannabis) can damage the bone and tissue attachments of teeth over time. Also, higher levels of plaque and tartar (often related to poor oral hygiene and dry mouth) is frequently seen in cannabis users.
  • Cannabis Stomatitis: Chronic inflammation of the soft tissues (lips, tongue, cheeks, palate) may predispose some patients to oral cancer, although the true relationship between cannabis and cancer is still unclear.
  • Cavities: THC is an appetite stimulant, which often leads users to engage in regular snacking. Snacking combined with more plaque and less saliva is the perfect environment to develop lots of cavities in a short period of time. This may also cause existing fillings, crowns, and other restorative work to fail.

In addition, using cannabis prior to receiving routine dental treatment can result in complications, such as:

  • Higher risk of dry socket and infection after surgery due to smoke inhalation.
  • Bad reactions to local anesthetic that may increase blood pressure or make the heart race.
  • Bad reactions to prescription medications, such as pain-killers or sedatives.
  • Impairment resulting in the inability to properly consent to dental treatment – meaning your dentist may have to cancel your treatment if you are deemed “unfit” to make decisions.

As always, I recommend talking openly with your dentist about any drug use! Some ways we can help manage the oral effects of cannabis include:

I hope this post got you thinking. If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you see, please share with your friends and follow me on Google +, Facebook, or Instagram!

And if you’re looking for a dentist in Kamloops, we are happily accepting new patients! You can contact us by clicking here!

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