It’s official: We’re in the peak of cold and flu season. While we all try our best to avoid the stuffiness, coughs, and sore throats that tend to accompany the flu or common cold, there are times when germs take hold and make us sick, no matter what we do. At our dental office, we never want our patients or neighbors to get sick, but we know the inevitable happens. And when it does, we want to educate everyone on some ways your go-to medicine of choice can damage your smile.
Medicines designed to help ease symptoms of the common cold such as cough syrups or cough drops are great at making you feel a bit better. But they tend to come with hidden dangers that can affect your oral health. Ultimately, the ingredients in many popular over-the-counter medications can lead to tooth decay and cavities.
Medicines usually contain some sugars to mask the bad taste. But these sugars are dangerous to teeth. When sugar enters the mouth, bacteria begin feeding on them and release acid as a byproduct. This acid wears away tooth enamel, which is meant to protect teeth against decay. Without their protective coating, teeth are at increased risk for decay and cavities.
Another common ingredient in many cough medicines is alcohol. However, alcohol reduces saliva production and may cause dry mouth. This is concerning for your dentist. Saliva is needed to rinse away sugars in the mouth and the acid produced by feeding bacteria. Without it, these sugars and acids are left behind to damage smiles by decaying teeth.
Tips to Help
Does this mean we’re suggestions that you should tough out a cold and not take any medicine? Definitely not. But we are suggesting a few ways you can help limit the potential of your medicine causing oral health problems.
- Trying taking the medication as a pill instead of a liquid. This will decrease or eliminate your teeth’s exposure to the dangerous ingredients.
- Don’t take cough syrup right before bed. If you take your medicine after you brush your teeth, the sugar is left in the mouth all night long, greatly increasing your risk for decay
- Take liquid medicine with food. Saliva production increases as we eat. So if you take your medicine when saliva production is highest, it can help rinse away the sugar and alcohol.
The team at our dental office hopes you can avoid getting sick this season. But if you do get sick, follow our tips above to protect your smile as you work on feeling better.