The Common Cold and Dental Health

young man with coldWhen you’re dealing with a cough that just won’t go away, you’d give anything to make it stop. So you do what anyone battling the common cold would do and head to your nearest pharmacy to load up on the best over-the-counter cough syrup you can find. While this remedy can finally make your coughing ease up, there is a link between this soothing fix and cavities that your Lawrenceville dentist wants you to know about.

The Danger is in The Ingredients

Most cough medicines and cough drops contain ingredients that, although made to help treat your cold symptoms, can also be damaging to your oral health. Many of the top medicines designed to help suppress that chronic tickle in your throat contain sugar and alcohol – both of which can contribute to tooth decay and other problems.

Sugar

Sugar is a common ingredient in many medicines for one reason – to make them not taste so horrible. However, these sugars are just the thing that bacteria love to feed on. When bacteria feed on sugars, they release a acidic byproduct. This acid wears away the protective tooth enamel and leave teeth exposed to decay.

Alcohol

A healthy mouth is one that produces saliva adequately and remains moist throughout the day. This saliva helps neutralize and rinse away acids caused by the sugar-eating bacteria. However, when alcohol is introduced into the mouth, saliva production is greatly decreased. Alcohol is naturally drying and inhibits your mouths ability to produce as much saliva as it should. A dry mouth is the perfect place for acid to wear away enamel, increasing the likelihood of decay.

Reduce the Risk

Just because your favorite cough medicine may contain these damaging ingredients doesn’t mean you have to suffer through your cold. There are a few ways you can reduce the risk of tooth decay and still find relief..

  • Take your medicine with food. Saliva production increases while eating so it can help wash away dangerous sugars and acids.
  • Avoid taking cough medicine right before bed. If you take medicine after you brush your teeth, the sugars and acids stay on your teeth all night.
  • Try a pill form of the medicine instead of a liquid. A pill reduces the amount of damaging ingredients that come in contact with teeth.

At our dental office in Lawrenceville, it’s our mission to keep our patients healthy, especially during cold and flu season when germs are aplenty. Even if you try every trick in the book to keep germs at bay, sometimes catching the dreaded sore throat, stuffy nose, or constant cough is inevitable. When this happens, we want you to be cautious of how you ease the symptoms to keep your smile healthy.

woman eating chocolateThis may first appear as a silly question to ask your dentist in Lawrenceville. Popular opinion would answer it with a resounding, “Yes, chocolate is bad for your teeth. Obviously.” However, our Lawrenceville dental office has a slightly different position when it comes to chocolate and your oral health.

Chocolate’s Secret Benefit for Happy Teeth

For years you’ve been hearing dentists talk about avoiding sweets or enjoying them in moderation since they tend to wreak havoc on your teeth. While still mostly true, recent research has suggested that dark chocolate, specifically, may defy this outdated rule. In fact, studies conducted in the United States, England, and Japan are changing the way the world views dark chocolate.

Dark Chocolate: A Serious Cavity Fighter

When we eat anything that has a high sugar content, including dark chocolate’s counterpart milk chocolate, that sugar is left to hang around on teeth. The bacteria in the mouth love this and start to feed on the sugars. What happens next is where the trouble begins. The feeding bacteria produce an acidic byproduct. This acid, if not neutralized or removed, is what causes tooth enamel to break down and leaves teeth at risk for decay and cavities. However, ingredients and compounds found in dark chocolate don’t allow this to occur, which makes it an a-ok treat in our book.

How Does it All Work?

If we eat a piece of dark chocolate, we’re still exposing our teeth to the sugar content. However, the compounds found in the cocoa bean husk, which is a primary ingredient in dark chocolate, help counteract the damaging effects of sugar. These special compounds fight off both the bacteria that would normally feed on the sugar and produce acid as well as any plaque. In fact, some studies suggest that the compounds found in dark chocolate may be more efficient at defending against decay than fluoride. However, more research is needed to test this theory.

Remember, Dark Chocolate is Good Chocolate

While we’d love to be able to tell you eating all types of chocolate is beneficial for your oral health, it’s just not true. These studies that support the health benefits of chocolate are dedicated specifically to dark chocolate. So before you load up on your favorite candy bars, try to make the switch to organic, dark chocolate for the best protection.

Following a well balanced diet of fruits, veggies, grains, and dairy is also important for not only oral health, but whole body health too. But the good news is that we now have a delicious and healthy option for dessert or quick sweet tooth fixes.

To maintain optimal oral health, don’t forget to visit our dental office in Lawrenceville twice a year and properly brush and floss your teeth at home.  

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