The Flu and Your Dental Health

With a focus on wellness, this Jacksonville, Florida dentist does a lot to remind her patients of the implications overall well being has on their oral wellness. During this flu season we feel it is important to remind our patients about how this illness affects oral health. It’s empowering to know what you can do to keep your teeth healthy while you fight this illness and how oral hygiene can help or hinder your healing.

What Does the Flu Have to Do With My Teeth?

Flu or, Influenza, is a respiratory virus that is extremely contagious.  It affects millions of people every year and can be fatal for those who have compromised or immature immune systems. It is characterized by a sore throat, cough, nasal congestion, muscle aches, fatigue, vomiting, and in some cases diarrhea and fever. With a healthy immune system, a case of influenza can be cleared from the body in as little as two days, for most – and those with weighted down immune system responses – the virus can remain in the body for up to two weeks. The flu virus is so dangerous because complications from the flu can be life threatening. Conditions such as pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, heart, and muscle tissues, organ shutdown, and even sepsis are possible and fatal consequences of contracting the flu. There are many documented cases of death and discomfort caused by the flu, yet many people don’t understand its connection to the mouth. However, the entire time this disease is ravaging the body, it is causing harm to the oral cavity.

First of all, influenza is spread by the contamination of respiratory droplets. This is a very clinical way of saying saliva and mucus originating in the nasal passages. The mouth is patient zero when it comes to the spread of the flu virus. While there is no amount of brushing that will cure your flu, it is important to know that contact with your mouth could spread this disease or be a source of contamination. Sharing beverages, sneezing without covering the mouth and nose with the crook of the arm, and contact with mucosal tissue is the direct cause of the spread of influenza and there are things you can do to prevent contracting, and spreading this disease. Because influenza is an assault on all body systems it can have a profound effect on your oral health.

Your Toothbrush

The flu virus is harbored in the mucus in your respiratory system, therefore it comes in contact with your teeth and mouth every day you are infected. When people get the flu, they don’t stop brushing their teeth, in fact if they are frequently vomiting they may be using their toothbrushes more than ever. Congestion can cause the nasal passages to become blocked and cause a person to snore while they sleep. The drying out of the mouth that accompanies snoring encourages the growth of bacteria and the formation of cavities. Further, vomiting brings stomach acid to the teeth, which erodes enamel and can spur the development of tooth decay. These two flu symptoms make the toothbrush the most utilized tool in an infected person’s “get well” regimen, and subsequently puts your toothbrush in a direct line of fire. The flu virus can live for up to 24 hours on a hard surface outside of the human body. If you’re brushing your teeth at least twice a day, and in some cases more than twice a day, the virus can live happily on your toothbrush and undermine your health every time you clean your teeth. It is important to discard a toothbrush after you have battled the flu, or any other sickness. When you feel like you’re getting better, switch it out. It doesn’t hurt to go so far as to replace that tooth brush once you are back to your healthy self – just to be safe.

The flu is a potentially fatal and certainly nasty virus to contract. Along with compromising everything from your digestive, cardiovascular, and immune systems it can also have a profound effect on your oral health. This flu season, make sure you take care of your teeth as you take care of your body, and don’t forget to replace your toothbrush.

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