It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, not exactly if your children come down with the flu. That’s why, as the United States gets hit hard by the flu, health care practitioners stress the importance of taking preventative measures. Getting a flu shot, washing your hands often, and avoiding people who are sick can help reduce the risk of getting the flu. But now what? It’s time to look at your children’s oral hygiene. Studies show that links between the immune system and oral hygiene suggest that care for the mouth and teeth could potentially help your children during flu season.
It’s fairly widely known that healthy teeth and gums can prevent gum disease. It’s also true that good oral health can prevent other types of systemic diseases. Chronic gum inflammation makes your child’s mouth a portal through which bacteria can enter the bloodstream. So, let’s dive in.
Simple toothbrush tips help fight infection
Did you know that toothbrushes can harbor harmful bacteria? Even after being rinsed thoroughly, toothbrushes can remain contaminated with potentially pathogenic organisms. Because of this, the ADA recommends replacing your child’s toothbrush at least every 3-4 months. Better yet, discard your child’s toothbrush that was used during an illness to avoid reinfection. It is possible that in a weakened immune system for a flu strain to come back. Start having your child practice the following:
- Thoroughly rinse your child’s toothbrush after brushing and allow to air dry in an upright position.
- Have your child wash their hands before and after brushing and flossing to avoid bacteria from entering their mouth.
- Teach your child to never share their toothbrush with anyone.
- Keep each family member’s toothbrush in a separate place to avoid cross-contamination and spreading of germs.
- Sterilize toothbrushes once a week by placing it in a few inches of water in a container and heating it for 2-3 minutes.
But, what if you’re one of the unlucky ones and your children and family come down with the flu? Here are some mouth-healthy tips:
- Brush your teeth often! According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours.
- Choose sugar-free cough drops.
- If you’re hit with the stomach flu – rinse your mouth before brushing.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dry mouth.
- Drink warm teas (but leave out the sugar and lemon).
As always, the best way to prevent gum disease is to make sure your child comes for a checkup. Our new mantra is: a healthy mouth, a healthy body – so make sure to schedule an appointment and keep the flu at bay.