There are so many things to enjoy about this time of year, but illness is not one of them. With seasonal flus, coughs, colds, not to mention Covid-19 going around, we figured it was a good time to talk through how to take care of your teeth and orthodontics when you are sick.
While thinking about your teeth might be the last thing on your mind when you don’t feel well, at Moffet & Walley Orthodontics we can speak from experience that keeping your smile healthy during illness is still really important. Especially when you have devices like braces, Invisalign, and retainers in your mouth, you’ll want to learn how to keep them clean and keep yourself healthy.
Avoid the Bad Stuff
You’ve probably heard from your dentist or orthodontist a million times that you should avoid sugar. It’s a well-researched fact that higher sugar consumption leads to more issues with your teeth. The bacteria that cause plaque love to eat on the sugar that gets stuck on your teeth, which is why on days that you have more sweets or candy, you’ll often notice a fuzzy layer of plaque forming on your teeth by the end of the day.
When you are sick it’s doubly important to avoid sugar. Not only can sugar suppress your immune system, but the combo of being unwell, having less energy to take care of your teeth, and sugar-hungry plaque is a really bad one. Plaque and tartar buildup around your braces is especially detrimental, so avoid sugary snacks and drinks and instead opt for easy-to-digest carbs like crackers or toast, and soup which can provide good nutrients and hydration.
Brush Your Teeth
This might seem a little obvious that an orthodontist will want you to brush your teeth, but hear us out. Dr. Moffett has seen the consequences of what can happen when a patient neglects caring for their teeth for a few days or weeks, and it doesn’t look good. Cavities, plaque and tartar buildup, along with filthy retainers that are gross to wear or fit onto your teeth is only the beginning. To mitigate all of these problems, we recommend brushing your teeth no matter how bad you feel.
If you wear a retainer, you will also want to be sure that it gets clean while you’re sick. Scrubbing out a retainer only takes a couple of minutes and it can save you from putting nasty germs back into your mouth again and again. To clean your retainer, just rinse it with some lukewarm water and scrub it with an antibacterial cleanser like hand soap or an alcohol-free mouthwash and a toothbrush. After a good brush all over the retainer and a thorough rinse, you’ll feel so much better with a nice clean, comfortable retainer.
Avoid Dry Mouth
One of the most detrimental impacts of sickness to your oral health that is not often discussed is dry mouth. It’s because your saliva contains plaque-fighting minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride that help keep your enamel strong. When you are dehydrated, or have dry mouth due to congestion and mouth breathing, it’s essential to replenish your hydration to avoid problems like cavities.
We suggest keeping a bottle of water nearby throughout the day and to take regular sips. As mentioned before, consuming liquid foods like soups can be helpful, and if you are really dehydrated, consider a hydrating beverage like Pedialyte to help you replenish faster. Avoid dehydrating substances like alcohol and coffee that suppress your immune system and make it more difficult to be fully hydrated.
Switch Out Your Toothbrush
Typically Dr. Moffett will recommend that his patients switch out their toothbrush afer 3-4 months of use. But if you’ve been sick recently, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and grab a new brush. This is because bacteria that lives in the mouth, including the sickness-causing ones, can get trapped inside of the bristles of your toothbrush. When you pick it up to use it again in the days and weeks after your illness, it’s possible for that bad bacteria to reinfect you.
While this doesn’t happen in every case, many dental professionals agree that it’s probably not worth the risk. If you’re sick, care of your health by switching out your toothbrush
Take Care of Yourself and Others by Staying at Home
This is advice that we hate to give because we never want our patients to avoid coming to our office. But the truth is, we have to prioritize the health of all our patients and staff. In order to avoid passing along your illness to others, we recommend that you stay home for a few more days and reschedule any standing appointments until after you feel better.
If you find that you’re having an orthodontic emergency of some kind that is causing distress or pain, give our office a call and we can brainstorm your best care options with you. Sometimes we can find a temporary at-home fix until you are well enough to visit the office. If we deem it absolutely necessary, and if you are able, we will call you in for a special emergency visit. We will do our best to make sure that all our health protocols are in place to avoid spreading any germs, and help you feel as comfortable as possible.
Don’t Hesitate to Call
While it’s no fun to be or think about being sick, the good news is that you have an entire team at Moffett & Walley Orthodontics to help you out. We have seen it all and we are eager to support you to make your sickness easier to manage in any way we can. If you have questions about orthodontic support while sick, call our offices in Clinton or Madison!