With cold and flu season in striking distance, many families are reasonably stocking up on cold remedies and cough syrups. Our dental practice is particularly concerned with cold and cough syrups as they invariably contain sugar. Other medications you or your kids might be taking at this time like antihistamine syrups can also affect oral health. These medications, while helpful at reducing sniffles, coughs, and watery eyes, can impact both tooth enamel erosion and tooth decay.
The makers of over-the-counter medicines know that we don’t really relish taking them, but since we feel miserable with cold, flu, or allergy, we’ll swallow it down. These medications taste rather awful, but just imagine how worse they’d taste without the added sugar. Kids are especially tuned into horrid-tasting medications. Manufacturers understand this so they try to temper the flavors of their products with sugar or other tasty ingredients that aren’t necessarily good for our health or our teeth.
Cold Remedies vs. Cavities
We aren’t suggesting that you or your family suffer through colds or allergy flare-ups without these over-the-counter sugar-laden medications. We understand that the sugar in these products may be a necessary evil. We do, however, have some important recommendations regarding these syrups and your teeth.
First, try to avoid taking these medicines before bed. This goes against the grain in some cases, especially when you are trying to enjoy or help your kids enjoy a more restful sleep in spite of their illness. While you are sleeping, saliva flow greatly diminishes. This means that the residue from the medicine can sit on your teeth all night doing its dirty work.
Secondly, if you do have to take medication before bedtime, rinse your mouth afterward thoroughly. This will allow you to wash down a good portion of the medication’s syrupy residue before it can linger on your teeth.
Finally, try to take these medicines with food like at mealtimes. When you chew, your mouth produces more saliva that will naturally clean your teeth of any sugars or acids.
You certainly don’t have to avoid using these products, but you do have to be mindful that their ingredients can harm your teeth even as they help you feel better when you’re suffering from a passing illness. Of course, if you can find sugar-free products, so much the better! Even so, it’s a good idea to practice these tips just in case there are other ingredients you don’t want sitting atop your teeth for very long.