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Fight the Flu Season With Your Teeth

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The flu season usually runs from November through March. The heaviest flu activity occurs in February. In the United States, on average, 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu. Following are some of the dental-related tips you can follow to lessen the possibility of re-infection or spread of the flu to others:

1) After an episode of cold or flu, discard your toothbrush. Bacteria survive on the toothbrush in the moist environment of the bathroom for months and can potentially re-infect you with the flu.

2) Each member of the family should have their own tube of toothpaste. The toothpaste can cause cross contamination. Buy small tubes and change the tube when changing the toothbrush.

3) Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol in them. The most popular brands of mouthwash have over 25% alcohol as their main ingredient. This is more alcohol than in a bottle of wine or beer.

Alcohol in the mouthwash not only dulls and causes break down of the tooth color bonded fillings and crowns, but it also dries up the mouth. A dry mouth is a potential place for organisms causing bad breath and infections to thrive.

4) Use tongue scrapers. The ridges and valleys on the tongue gather bacteria, and it needs to be scraped off. Tongue scrapers are designed specifically to clean the tongue and remove the plaque. Just like the toothbrush, replace the tongue scraper after an episode of flu or cold. A toothbrush is not efficient to clean the tongue and use of the toothbrush also contaminates it.

5) One of the most common over-the-counter cold remedies is a throat lozenge. Unlike a candy bar, a package of lozenges does not specify the amount of sugar in it. Some of the lozenges are just candies without any antiseptic agents. Most of the lozenges, regardless of their sugar content, have flavoring agents.

The acidic environment produced by these flavorings erodes the enamel of the teeth away if used in the long term and causes sensitivity in the teeth. One of the active ingredients of the most lozenges in Menthol. Menthol’s only function is to give the mouth a cool feeling that temporarily masks the sore throat. There is no therapeutic action from these lozenges.

6) If you take antihistamines or decongestants, remember these medications dry the mouth. Saliva washes the bacteria and food off the teeth. Avoid caffeinated liquids (like colas and coffee, which promote fluid loss), and drink more plain water.

7) Sinus infections can simulate toothache. The roots of the back molar teeth are in the floor of the sinus and an infected sinus feels like a toothache. Tilting the head down increases the pain and pressure as the fluid changes position in the sinus.

8) Dentures and mouth guards are another source for bacteria and virus to reside. They can be reservoirs for re-infection. There are commercially available cleaners in the stores but you can make one yourself with one teaspoon Clorox, two teaspoons Calgon (water conditioner), and eight ounces of cold water. Leave the denture for at least 30 minutes, brush and rinse thoroughly.

Smile and stay healthy.

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