For orthodontic patients, taking care of braces or clear aligners requires extra attention in the best of times, but with the flu season in full swing, it is even more important to keep up with a committed routine. When sickness strikes, following these steps will speed up the healing process. Here’s the Coppe & Sears guide to orthodontics while sick.
Although the Coppe & Sears team loves seeing patients, the best way to keep everyone safe is to stay home in the case of virus symptoms, especially if a fever is present. Rescheduling an appointment is easy – just call the office, let them know what is going on, and find a later date to visit Dr. Sears and Dr. Donovan.
Whether a patient is dealing with a stomach virus or a cold, staying hydrated should always be the first line of defense against illness. With braces or clear aligners, however, it becomes even more important to drink plenty of water to keep the body – and the teeth – healthy and clean.
Many cold symptoms, like having a stuffy nose, can lead to mouth-breathing, which can dry out the mouth and make you more susceptible to cavities. Drinking water replenishes these fluids that keep the body running smoothly, so there is no additional worry about developing a toothache on top of other uncomfortable symptoms.
Water also helps to rinse out the mouth, getting rid of bad bacteria and gunk that might build up while feeling out of sorts. Take a stomach virus, for example. Vomiting may leave stomach acid on the back of the teeth, and this residue could lead to enamel erosion. Drinking more water helps rinse this acid off, so the teeth can withstand the risk of cavities.
Keep Up with a Good Oral Hygiene Routine
Staying home from work or school and laying in bed is one of the best ways to fight off sickness, but the Coppe & Sears Orthodontics team recommends making a point to get up twice a day to brush and floss anyway. Sticking to a regular oral hygiene routine ensures that plaque never has a chance to build up on those pearly whites.
Having braces means additional space for bad bacteria to form and hide, so forgetting to brush while sick increases the risk of developing cavities. Similarly, wearing clear aligners over the teeth without brushing traps these bacteria inside the trays, making it impossible for water to rinse away excess sugars. To avoid cavities, stick to a regular routine, even when it is hard.
Rinse with Salt Water
Gargling with salt water is an old-fashioned cure for all kinds of ailments, from ulcers to sore throats. That is because it kills bad bacteria at the back of the throat and tongue. Swishing salt water can alleviate pain and reduce bacteria that cause plaque buildup.
Avoid Sugary Foods & Beverages
Many patients are surprised by how much sugar they consume when they are sick, but it is not uncommon for them to reach for a ginger ale to calm a stomach ache or a cough drop to soothe a sore throat. While these quick fixes are good for easing symptoms, they are not good for braces or clear aligners.
Sugary foods and beverages can leave a film on the teeth that attracts bad bacteria. This bacteria produces acid that wears away the enamel on the teeth and produces cavities. When a patient has braces, there is much more surface area in the mouth for these bacteria to cling to, so avoiding sugar is the best bet for keeping appliances clean.
Instead, stick with water or sugar-free cough drops. These healthier alternatives will help you feel better without risking oral health.
Keep Hands Clean
This may be a common health tip, but keeping the hands clean, especially as an Invisalign patient, is essential. Because clear aligner patients remove their aligner trays to eat and brush their teeth, their hands are always around their mouths. Dirty hands can cause the spread of even more germs, so sick patients need to be extra careful.
Wash the hands with hot soapy water before and after removing or replacing clear aligner trays. Consider using a paper towel or gloves to cover your hands during this process. Doing so will ensure a faster healing process.
Shop for a Toothbrush Replacement
Dr. Coppe and Dr. Donovan recommend using a toothbrush for a max of three months, even when patients are not sick. However, because brushing the teeth while under the weather can leave bacteria on a toothbrush, it is important for orthodontic patients to find a new one as soon as they’re feeling better.
When patients are sick, bad bacteria builds up in the mouth more rapidly than when they are healthy. This bacteria winds up on their toothbrushes, and that is not a tool they will want to use when they feel better again. Buy a replacement toothbrush head or new toothbrush entirely as soon as possible to stay healthy when the sickness dissipates.
Feel Better Soon!
Feeling sick is no fun, but by following these tips, any orthodontic patient can stay healthier and happier. Remember to stay on top of a consistent oral hygiene routine and call the team at Coppe & Sears with any questions.