More than 3 million Americans get the common cold every year. That’s a lot of sneezes, running noses, and coughs that many of us will treat with over-the-counter medications. Even though these medications can help us feel a little bit better and relieve us of our symptoms, even temporarily, there are some reasons why your dentist in Edina recommends using cough and cold medicine carefully.
It’s easy to load up on cold medicine, especially when it helps stop a cough or unstuff a nose. After all, there’s no reason you should have to suffer through your cold when there are medications out there that can help you feel better. But some of the most common cold medicines contain some ingredients that can put your smile in danger. Most notably, the sugars and alcohol found in many over-the-counter cold remedies.
Most medications that help with cold symptoms contain sugar. This is because, without it, medicine can taste pretty bad. But as everyone knows, your dentist in Edina really doesn’t like sugar, which includes those found in medications. Sugar is one of the top contributors to tooth decay. When we eat sugary foods, suck on cough drops, or take liquid cough medicine, the bacteria in our mouths feed on the sugars. These bacteria release an acidic byproduct that can wear away tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the outside protective layer of teeth that protects it against decay. Without it, teeth are at increased risk for decay and cavities.
The other common ingredient found in many cold medications is alcohol. Even though there’s not much of it, alcohol in medicine can still be a concern for your Edina dentist. Alcohol can easily cause dry mouth. Normally, dry mouth is alleviated naturally by saliva. A healthy mouth typically produces between 0.5 and 1.5 liters of saliva each day. This saliva helps neutralize acids and wash away bacteria. But those with dry mouth produce much less saliva which means those dangerous bacteria and acids are left behind and can increase the risk for tooth decay.
We understand that asking you to avoid medicine during a miserable cold is, well, miserable. So we’re certainly not suggesting that you don’t take medicine at all. What we do recommend, however, is that you take medicine at the right time and the right way to reduce its oral health risks.
If you do happen to catch a cold, try these tips to not only feel better but also protect your teeth in the process.