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Can Cold and Flu Remedies Hurt Your Teeth?

November 19, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — lapalcodental @ 2:29 pm

woman blowing her nose

Cold and flu season is upon us, and that comes with its own set of challenges. If you’re not careful, you could be in for some sleepless nights, stuffy heads, and runny noses. There are home remedies and store-bought medicines you can take, but oftentimes those can actually wreak havoc on your teeth. Read on as a dentist describes some common problems with cold and flu remedies and you can combat them.

Cough Drops

Cough drops are made to dissolve slowly as their soothing ingredients settle on your mouth and throat. While this may be great for easing your symptoms, it’s not so good for your pearly whites, especially if the cough drops contain sugar. Unfortunately, many of them do.

When something sugary dissolves in your mouth over time, it soaks your teeth in sugar, leading to tooth decay. The best way to prevent this is to choose sugar-free cough drops and throat lozenges. If you’re going to consume cough drops with sugar, remember to brush your teeth regularly.

Liquid Cold Medicine or Cough Syrup

Much like cough drops, liquid cold medicines typically contain sugar for taste. These sticky liquids leave a coating of sugar on your teeth that leads to – you guessed it – tooth decay. To counteract this, it’s best to choose pills or gels caps instead of liquid medication. If that’s not possible, then take your medicine with a meal and brush your teeth afterwards.


Decongestants help combat runny noses by drying things out, but unfortunately, sometimes they dry out more than just your nose. A common side effect of decongestants is called dry mouth, a condition where the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. When the mouth doesn’t have enough saliva, it promotes bacterial growth, contributing to problems like tooth decay and gum disease.

To prevent dry mouth and also stay hydrated, make sure to drink plenty of water while you’re taking decongestants. You can also suck on cough drops – just be sure they’re sugar-free!

Hot Tea

Tea has been used to soothe symptoms of all kinds for centuries, including sore throats caused by a cold or the flu. Although tea might be better for your pearly whites than soda or other sugary beverages, it can still pose dental dangers. Lots of teas can erode your enamel, or the outermost layer of your teeth, and leave you susceptible to sensitivity. If you put honey or sugar in your tea, it can also cause tooth decay.

To counteract these issues, it’s best to sip your tea through a straw. That way the beverage will zip right past your teeth before it has a chance to do any damage. It’s also a good idea to use less sugar or sweetener, and to drink plenty of water as well as tea.

While it’s important to make sure you’re healthy during cold and flu season, you shouldn’t neglect your oral health. To sum up, brush more frequently, drink lots of water, and choose sugar-free options when possible. You’ll feel much more refreshed and healthier!

About the Author

Dr. C. J. Landry earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1982 from Louisiana State University. Immediately afterwards, he opened his own practice, Lapalco Family Dental, in Marrero, LA. In addition to having more than 30 years of experience as a dentist, Dr. Landry has completed thousands of hours of continuing education courses. To learn more cold and flu season tips, you can contact Dr. Landry by calling (504) 348-0080.

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