Cold and flu season is upon us and with all the coughing, sneezing, aches and fever to fight off, many parents may unknowingly leave their child’s oral health exposed to a number of hazards.
To keep the cold and flu from sabotaging your child’s smile this year, steer clear of these dental pitfalls.
Don’t Forget to Brush and Floss
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), brushing your children’s teeth when they are sick can make them feel better and more refreshed by removing plaque and bacteria. While it is important to take care of your children’s teeth all year around, it is especially important when they are sick due to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth.
Rinsing Vs. Brushing After Vomiting
Unfortunately, vomiting is a side effect of having the flu. Even though it is tempting to have children brush their teeth right away, it is recommended that you wait.
“When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them,” says ADA dentist Dr. Gene Romo. “If you brush too soon, you’re just rubbing that acid all over the hard outer shell of your [child’s] teeth.”
It is better to swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse, or a mixture of water and 1 tsp. baking soda to help wash the acid away. Have your child spit this out and brush about 30 minutes later.
Don’t Ignore Dry Mouth
When succumbing to a cold or flu, your child needs plenty of fluids for many reasons. One is to prevent dry mouth. Not only is dry mouth uncomfortable, dry mouth can put a child at greater risk for cavities. Medications such as antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers can also dry out your child’s mouth. So have little ones drink plenty of water vs. sports drinks or juices to avoid the intake of sugar, or have your child suck on sugarless versions of cough drops, throat lozenges or candies to keep that saliva flowing.
When In Doubt, Throw Your Child’s Toothbrush Out
The flu virus can live on moist surfaces for up to 72 hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The number one rule is not to share your toothbrush anytime, but especially when you are sick,” Dr. Romo says.
You probably don’t need to replace your child’s toothbrush after sickness, unless his or her immune system is severely compromised. The chance of reinfection is very low.
“But if you’re still in doubt, throw it out,” says Dr. Romo. “Especially if you’ve had your toothbrush for 3-4 months, when it’s time to replace it anyway.”
Time to schedule your child’s dental appointment? Schedule your appointment today!