Managing Wellness

Medicine and Oral Health: Keeping Your Teeth Healthy During a Cold

  • Adults have an average of two to three colds every year, and worse, recovery can take anywhere from seven to 10 days
  • Liquid cold medicine contains sugar, which can lead to cavities
  • Some medicine can also dry out your employees' mouths, which increases the risk of cavities and other oral health problems
Posted by February 20, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that adults have an average of two to three colds every year, and worse, recovery can take anywhere from seven to 10 days. Yikes!

With so many germs being passed around, your staff may turn to a bottle of cold or flu medicine in an attempt to avoid running through their allotted sick time. While they may have good intentions, your team members might not understand the link between cold medicine and oral health. Aside from stressing the importance of protecting oneself from the common cold, it’s also valuable to educate your staff about how this medicine can affect their teeth.

Remember, Liquid Cold Meds Are Full of Sugar

Modern-day cold medicine tastes better than it did in years past, as it now contains ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and sucrose. However, the addition of these ingredients means a mouthful of sugar—and it’s known that sugar, combined with the already-present, harmful bacteria, can wreak havoc on anyone’s mouth. Plus, cold medicine often includes citric acid, which dissolves the enamel of your teeth, making it even easier to develop problems like cavities or infections.

Take Action After Taking Medicine

Now, this doesn’t mean that your staff necessarily should skip a dose of liquid cold medicine. If they need it, their teeth should not be a barrier to taking it. However, your team members can take steps to limit the harm that the syrup can do to their teeth.

In a perfect scenario, your employees should brush their teeth after ingesting cold medicine. If this isn’t possible, suggest they take it with food, as eating food will increase the amount of saliva in the mouth, helping to wash away the sugar and neutralize any acids. It’s very important they rinse their mouths with water every time they eat or drink any liquid medications.

It’s not just the sugar that can cause issues in your employees’ mouths. Medicine and oral health are closely related. For example, the alcohol in certain medicines may dry up saliva, which is needed to help protect your enamel. And it isn’t just alcohol in the ingredients that can cause mouths to feel dry. Antihistamines—used to block histamine receptors—are often taken by people looking to dry out fluids or mucus from a common cold. However, it also reduces the saliva flow in a person’s mouth at the same time.

When there isn’t enough saliva available, it’s more difficult to wash away sugar and germs and neutralize acids. Plus, when the soft tissue in the mouth, like the gums and cheeks, gets too dry, it becomes irritated and inflamed, making it easier for bacteria to breed and cause issues like gum disease.

Opt for the Pill Form, If Possible

When it comes to medicine and oral health, there doesn’t have to be an issue so long as your employees take the proper precautions. Problems can be avoided if staff members make a point to clean their mouths soon after taking a dosage, or skip sugary options and opt for the medication in pill form (if available). Help your team maintain their oral health by keeping spare toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste in the employee break rooms.

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