Monday, June 24, 2024
HomeFood & DrinkDon't Let Your Teeth Get Hurt This Cold & Flu Season

Don’t Let Your Teeth Get Hurt This Cold & Flu Season

Three weeks ago I got a cold. I was just getting over it when we went up to Maine, and right when we got back I got sick again.  I’m finally getting better, but my oral hygiene has been less than stellar over the past few weeks!

Fever Can Affect Oral HealthNow that the days are getting colder and shorter here in the northern hemisphere, it’s a good time to talk about how the common cold can affect your oral health.

I’ve actually come up with a variety of ways that the cold and flu can mess up your oral health.  Here they are.

6 Ways the Common Cold & Flu Can Hurt Your Teeth

1 – We tend to drink acidic beverages when we’re sick. Water doesn’t sound very good when you’re sick.  Many people drink lots of orange juice and soda pop (such as ginger ale) when they’re sick.

When I was little, my mom would always make me nice hot cups of what we called honey lemon water.  It’s a slight variation on this recipe of  honey lemon tea.  I still drink it when I’m sick!

You can lessen the effect of acidic drinks on your teeth by drinking them quickly and then either drinking or rinsing your mouth out with water when you’re done.

Read more about which drinks are acidic and can dissolve your teeth here.

2 – When you’re sick, you really don’t feel like brushing or flossing. When you’re sick, the first thing on your mind is getting better, not brushing and flossing.  However, by taking a couple of minutes each day to take care of your teeth, you can prevent the build-up of tartar, which is a type of hard mineralized plaque that forms on your teeth if you don’t remove plaque daily.

3 – Inflammation of the sinuses can make your teeth and gums hurt.  If you’ve got a cold and you’re stuffed up, your sinuses might not feel very good!  The maxillary sinus is located right above your upper back teeth and can make them hurt.

There have also been reports of people’s gums hurting when they’re sick.  This probably occurs because many people breathe through their mouths when they’re sick because they have a stuffy nose.  This dries out the gums and irritates them.  Another possible explanation is that your immune system is so busy fighting your cold that it’s harder for it to fight the bacteria in your mouth, thus causing your gums to get irritated.

4 – When you’re sick, your mouth gets dry.  As I mentioned above, your mouth gets dry because you breathe through it more than usual when your nose is stuffy.  Coughing can also dry out the mouth.  A dry mouth allows sugar to hang around in your mouth and contributes to tooth decay.

Try to stay hydrated when you are sick as much as possible!  When possible, reach for plain water instead of juices or soda pop.

To see why a dry mouth is bad for your teeth, read about how wonderful spit is!

Cough Syrup Can Damage Your Teeth5 – Cold medicine isn’t very friendly to your teeth.  Cough syrups such as Dayquil syrup can stick to your teeth and cause cavities.  Here’s an article that talks about how you can reduce the damage that cough syrup does to your teeth.

Cherry Alka Seltzer Cold MedicineMany cold medicines, such as Alka-Seltzer, are acidic.  Acidic drinks can dissolve the calcium that makes up the enamel of your teeth.

Cough drops are another culprit, but they don’t have to be.  Just eat sugar free cough drops and you’ll be fine.  Both Hall’s and Ricola make great tasting sugar-free cough drops that are much better for your teeth than regular cough drops, which contain a significant amount of sugar.

Rather than taking cough syrup, try substituting something in pill form.  For example, DayQuil is available in a gelcap form that doesn’t contain all of the sugar that the syrup does.  If you must have Alka-Seltzer, you might want to rinse out your mouth or drink water afterward to get the acid off of your teeth.

6 – Vomit is acidic and dissolves your teeth.  Hopefully you don’t have to toss your cookies this cold and flu season.  The stomach is the most acidic place in your body and when it’s contents come back up, they will dissolve your teeth.

After vomiting, the best thing to do for your teeth is to rinse out with water.  You might be tempted to brush your teeth with toothpaste to get the acidic taste out of your mouth, but brushing can damage the enamel because it’s already been weakened by the exposure to your stomach acid.


Having a cold can hurt your teeth.  Remember to continue your regular oral hygiene routine even when you don’t feel well.

Try to avoid cold and flu medicine that are syrups or contain lots of sugar.  Pills and sugar-free cough drops are excellent alternatives.

If you do happen to throw up, remember to rinse your mouth afterward with water to wash away the acid.

If you have any other suggestions or any questions, feel free to add them in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!



  1. I was just curious…
    I’ve got a cold and it’s been several days, I can’t seem to kick it.
    Does my toothbrush hold on to the cold’s germs, continuing my exposure to the bug?
    should I replace my toothbrush?

    • Hi Sara – The bacteria do stick around on your toothbrush. There may be a link between the germs on your toothbrush and your cold.

      I have read that you should get a new toothbrush when you recover from a sickness but I’m still not sure why you would need to since your immune system should be able to fight off those germs once your body has overcome the sickness.

      I had talked with a couple of my professors about changing toothbrushes when you’re sick. They had all heard that it may be a good idea, but when I asked them if they actually replaced their toothbrushes, none of them told me that they did…

      This is probably more of a personal preference for you. If you feel like you’ll have a faster recovery if you switch out your toothbrush, go ahead.

      I hope that helps. Thanks for your comment, Sara!

  2. this is actually dangerously ill informed.

    First of all, you can’t re-catch the same cold, once you have it you build immunity to it. Only once it has been round the block a few times, not sitting on bits of plastic, can it remould itself into a new adaptation of the virus.

    Secondly, when gums start to hurt, and it feels like the teeth hurt, or are strangely uncomfortable – it is a sign of inflamed gums and potentially sinusitis. Once you start getting this is often happens there in after. Ibuprofen relieves the inflammation and anti-biotics are used for people with more serious infections because repeated infections damage the sinus wall and leave it open to more infection.

    • Hi Ila – I’m not sure if dangerously ill-informed is the best phrase to describe the article, but I recognize we all have a right to our opinions, and that’s what makes the world so great!

      I do agree with you on your first argument – In fact, I wrote an article talking about why you probably don’t need to change your toothbrush after you get sick.

      On your other point, Sinusitis can cause pain in the mouth and is something that should definitely be checked out. Many times people only experience slight pain in their gums which can be due to gingivitis as a result of mouth breathing during the cold and flu.

      Thanks for your comment! Let me know if that clarifies any of the questions you had about what I’d written above.

  3. Hi Tom! First of all I like your style! You are full of good information and eager to help! Of course tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I have had a cold for 3 days now that has settled into my teeth and gums and I am miserable! Everything hurts! I will try what you suggested and thank you for posting this information! Wish me luck! Merry Christmas! Cyndi

  4. Thank you so much for such post! It been years when I was suffering with a cold and gum aches. Now I know what might be the problem and tips to avoid it! Great job!

  5. Hey when I’m sick I almost always get mumps. My teeth and gums hurt a lot right now because I have the flu. But I have been brushing and there is this weird stuff on my teeth every morning and it is really gross. Can you tell me why

  6. Afternoon Docter

    I have flu it started on Saturday then Sunday morning
    I woke up with a terrible pain on my top teeth,and the
    Problem is my teeth are not sensitive to hot or cold footer are just so painful I can not take the pain anymore,is this a sign of anything serious please help..

  7. Hey! I had a stomach bug yesterday and was throwing up all day. Then today, one of my teeth has hurt all day whenever I ate, especially if it was something cold. Does that mean it’s a cavity? Could my throwing up have caused this cavity? And if so, is there any way I can reverse this cavity without getting it filled at the dentist?

  8. This guy knows nothing about oral problems it seems. Your gums (usually where your teeth connect) feel like a dull pain because it is near your upper sinuses… This is why they get inflamed and hurt.
    You can’t catch a cold twice unless it gets caught by other people and mutates if you will.
    Feeding people false information..

  9. Some of you guys are so rude. This dentist’s advice was sound and he was kind.

    Since some of you are insisting that you can’t get the same germ twice, I would like to bring to your attention strep. Since I’ve been diagnosed with strep throat off and on for years, I am going to say that it is you who are clueless. You CAN get the same germ twice – not viruses, but bacteria, yes.

    Changing my toothbrush helped me break the strep cycle. Don’t go trashing on a dr who is trying to help. Do some real world research first before giving your uneducated opinions.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments

Rosemary Peter on Ten Causes of Canker Sores
Preston Essic on Dental Patient Rights
Rich Valentino on Dental Patient Rights
Thandolwethu on Teething Baby Pictures
Erin Knutson on Ten Causes of Canker Sores
Kirstie Feyerabend on Can You Keep Your Extracted Teeth?
Robert McKnight on Colored Fillings
Queen Kay (AKA Kaleigh) on 60 Photos of Teenagers with Braces
Carolina on Do Braces Hurt?
Onelesstoothtocompletemysmilebonescollection on Can You Keep Your Extracted Teeth?
Marianne Sites on Colored Fillings
lulu on Do Braces Hurt?
David Abarientos on How Long Does Teething Last?
Shouganai on Colored Fillings
Benjamin Greene on Dental Patient Rights
Laura elliott on Teething Baby Pictures
David Plaster on Ten Causes of Canker Sores
any intelligent mind. on Seven Ways Meth Ruins Your Teeth
Maria on Do Braces Hurt?
Karina on Do Braces Hurt?
Collette hunt on Ten Causes of Canker Sores
Megan on Do Braces Hurt?
A Person (I wish to remain anonymous) on Can You Keep Your Extracted Teeth?
Alison M. on Do Braces Hurt?
Mandarinboop on Do Braces Hurt?
kaito on Do Braces Hurt?
kaito on Do Braces Hurt?
Fidel Márquez Avilés, DDS, MSD on A Trip to The National Museum of Dentistry
Imogen on Do Braces Hurt?
14 year old teenager on 60 Photos of Teenagers with Braces
Dr. Todd Donnelly, D.D.s on What’s In an Amalgam Filling?
Rayna on Do Braces Hurt?
Sarah Kollmansberger on Why Your Dentist Can’t Get You Numb
Ana Howard on Do Braces Hurt?
Ana Howard on Do Braces Hurt?
estrella.reyes on Do Braces Hurt?