With a brutal flu season that has led to more than 90 deaths in Connecticut alone, the Connecticut Dental Association is reminding the public that flu shots and hand washing aren’t their only weapons against the contagious respiratory illness.
According to the association, proper dental hygiene can help combat sickness and hasten recovery.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours, which includes not only your mouth, but your toothbrush.
“When you’re sick, it is especially important to maintain proper oral care as certain practices can really hurt your mouth long-term and prolong your symptoms,” said Dr. Gary Linker, CSDA President, in a news release. “This includes not sharing your toothbrush with anyone, and replacing it right away once you start feeling better.”
Staying properly hydrated is another key factor on the road to recovery. Water is the best liquid for your overall and oral health, especially when you’re sick. Warm beverages can soothe the throat – especially healthy herbal teas, but make sure to watch out for adding sugar or lemon, as that makes it less healthy and more acidic. Sports drinks, while recommended to replenish electrolytes, are important to drink in moderation as they contain sugars that can wear down tooth enamel, causing cavities.
“To clean out your mouth, you could also dissolve a tablespoon of salt in warm water—gargle and spit. This helps reduce harmful bacteria, plaque, and reduces bad breath,” Linker said. “Instead of brushing after vomiting, the best thing to do is to swirl warm salt water around your mouth, which removes the stomach acid left in your mouth.”
“We hope everyone takes steps to stay healthy this winter,” added Linker. “But if you do come down with a cold or the flu, stay home, rest up, and drink plenty of healthy fluids. You’ll be better before you know it.”