It’s never fun watching your child be sick. We do everything we can do make our children comfortable when they’re getting through a flu or stomach virus, but it’s still torture to watch your child suffer. It’s for this reason that we often put dental hygiene on the back burner when tending to a sick child.
Since all routines are put on hold during times of illness, you may also be tempted to put the daily brushing and flossing on hold. There are several reasons why you don’t want to forgo brushing completely—but luckily there are many ways to protect children’s dental health in times of illness.
Dr. Kimmy is a pediatric dentist who specializes in all things kid-related. If you need advice on children’s dental health, schedule a visit to meet Dr. Kimmy at her Manhasset, NY dental practice. Call us at 516-365-4-KID today!
Children’s Dental Health During Illness
There are two main reasons why skipping your oral hygiene routine is a bad idea when you are ill. The first is saliva. Illness is often accompanied by a decrease in appetite and an increase in sleep. Your body needs lots of rest and sleeping is the natural response when your whole body feels terrible. The danger there is that our bodies naturally reduce saliva production when we sleep, and saliva is crucial to clearing and neutralizing bacteria in our mouths. Couple an increase in sleep with a decrease in eating, and your kiddo is going to have a drier mouth when sick.
The second reason is tartar. Tartar develops when plaque sits on the teeth long enough to harden and calcify. Once it forms, it becomes insoluble and can only be removed with dental instruments. You can’t just brush it away. It is also the cause of cavities. This is important because tartar can form in only 48 hours! Skip tooth brushing for just two days, and you might have cavities forming where previously there were none.
Furthermore, if your child is vomiting due to illness, this can create an even richer environment for bacteria. If stomach acid sits on the teeth for long periods, it can also erode enamel, which is never good.
What You Can Do
As your doctor will also tell you, push the fluids during illness. Keep your child sipping water or herbal teas, to keep him hydrated and keep saliva production as high as possible. If he doesn’t feel like drinking, due to nausea, ask him to rinse with water every now and then, to help clear the mouth of bacteria that accumulates during long periods of having the mouth closed. You can also offer your child sugarless gum. This will amp up saliva production, and peppermint or ginger gum can also aid with feelings of nausea. If your child is taking syrupy medicines, always have him drink water or rinse afterwards. Many medicines are filled with sugar, which can make “sick-mouth” even more damaging to little teeth.
If forcing your child to the bathroom for brushing and flossing feels wrong, bring the bathroom to your child. You can easily bring a bowl, glass of water and toothbrush to your child, whether he is camped out on the sofa or in bed. Use only a smidge of toothpaste, or none at all. As long as he goes through the regular brushing motions, it should remove plaque and bacteria. You can do this any time of the day when your child is feeling somewhat perky. As long as you do this at least once per sick day, you’ll be preventing the worst from happening, tartar-wise.
If your child is vomiting, do not have him brush his teeth immediately afterward. This can push the acids deeper into the enamel. Instead, rinse with milk or water to neutralize the acids, then wait at least 30 minutes before brushing the teeth.
- Tartar can form in only 48 hours, so brush away plaque every day, even when sick!
- Being sick can dry out the mouth, so make sure your child stays hydrated!
- Rinsing the mouth, and chewing gum are good activities to add to your sick-child care.
- Do not brush teeth immediately after vomiting. Rinse with milk or water, and brush 30-60 minutes later.
Dr. Kimmy knows oral hygiene is usually the last thing on your mind when you are tending to a sick child. But keeping teeth clean is always a critical part of avoiding cavities. Your child doesn’t have to stick to his normal oral care routine, but a modified version can often be easy to accomplish, even when your child is virtually bedridden.
Dr. Kimmy is a pediatric dentist who specializes in all things kid-related. If you need advice on children’s dental health, schedule a visit to meet her in her Manhasset, NY dental practice. Call us at 516-365-4-KID today!Leave a reply →