Cold and Flu Season: 5 Ways to Care for Your Mouth When You’re Sick

When he’s feeling under the weather, ADA dentist Dr. Gene Romo says one thing always helps him feel a little more like himself. “Brushing my teeth when I’m sick actually makes me feel better,” he says. “My mouth feels clean, and in a way, I feel like my health is starting to improve.”

When you have a cold or the flu, taking care of your body is your top priority—and that includes your mouth. “It’s important to take care of your dental health all year round, but especially when you’re sick,” Dr. Romo says.

Here are some simple ways to care for your dental health when you’re not feeling well:

Practice Good Hygiene

When you’re sick, you know to cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Don’t forget to keep up your dental and toothbrush hygiene as well.

According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on moist surfaces for 72 hours. “The number one rule is not to share your toothbrush anytime, but especially when you are sick,” Dr. Romo says.

You also probably don’t need to replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick. Unless your immune system is severely compromised, the chances of reinfecting yourself are very low. “But if you’re still in doubt, throw it out,” says Dr. Romo. “Especially if you’ve had your toothbrush for 3-4 months, when it’s time to replace it anyway.”

Choose Sugar-Free Cough Drops

Read the label before you pick up a bag at the drug store with an eye to avoid ingredients like fructose or corn syrup. “Many cough drops contain sugar, and it is like sucking on candy,” says Dr. Romo. “Sugar is a culprit when it comes to cavities.” The longer you keep a sugary cough drop in your mouth, the more time cavity-causing bacteria has to feast on that sugar, which produces the acid that can leave holes in your teeth.

Swish and Spit After Vomiting

One unfortunate side effect of a stomach flu, among other illnesses, is vomiting. You might be tempted to brush your teeth right away, but Dr. Romo says it’s actually better to wait. “When you vomit, stomach acids are coming in contact with your teeth and coating them,” he says. “If you brush too soon, you’re just rubbing that acid all over the hard outer shell of your teeth.”

Instead, swish with water, a diluted mouth rinse or a mixture of water and 1 tsp. baking soda to help wash the acid away. Spit, and brush about 30 minutes later.

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Dry Mouth

When you’re sick, you need plenty of fluids for many reasons. One is to prevent dry mouth. Not only is it uncomfortable—dry mouth can also put you at greater risk for cavities. The medications you might be taking for a cold or flu—such as antihistamines, decongestants or pain relievers—can also dry out your mouth, so drink plenty of water and suck on sugarless cough drops, throat lozenges or candies to keep that saliva flowing.

Choose the Right Fluids

When it comes to your mouth and your body, one beverage is always best. “The safest thing to drink is water,” Dr. Romo says. “Sports drinks might be recommended to replenish electrolytes when you’re sick, but drink them in moderation and don’t make them a habit after you’ve recovered because unless they are a sugar free version, they contain a lot of sugar.”

You might also want something to warm you up. “When you have a cold or the flu, you may want something comforting to get through it, like tea,” he says. “Try not to add sugar or lemon if you can avoid it. Sugar can helps to fuel cavity-causing bacteria, and lemon is acidic. It’s something to keep in mind once you’re feeling 100% again, as well.”

Charcoal Whitening: Does it work and is it safe?

You see it everywhere now – advertised on Facebook and Instagram, in the beauty aisle at Target and Walgreens. Activated charcoal can be found in pill form, facemasks, you name it. There are even charcoal teeth whitening products on the market. Reviews on social media urge consumers to join the trend. But does charcoal actually whiten teeth, and is it even safe?

First off, you may be asking, “What is charcoal exactly?” It has often been used for poison control and to prevent overdoses, due to its toxin-binding properties. Though commonly seen in the health and beauty world today, activated charcoal is a little different than the charcoal or coal from your outside grill. Activated charcoal is finely ground bits of coconut shells, coal, peat, bone char, even sawdust, and more. Then, it is heated, thus making it more porous.

Charcoal teeth whitening instructions

  1. Open an activated charcoal capsule, and empty contents into a small bowl.
  2. Take a wet toothbrush, and dip it into the activated charcoal powder.
  3. Brush your teeth gently for 2 to 5 minutes.

Also, there are actual toothpastes with activated charcoal as an ingredient. If you decide to brush with those, follow the package directions or simply brush as you would with any other toothpaste. Make sure not to use activated charcoal toothpaste as a replacement for your regular toothpaste. It should just be a very occasional supplement if used at all.

Does charcoal teeth whitening work?

Activated charcoal, when brushed on your teeth, attracts dirt and tartar like a magnet. Then, when you rinse your mouth, your teeth look whiter because some of the stains have been removed. Does that mean your teeth made whiter? Not necessarily. This is because the charcoal is simply showing how white your teeth are without stains. It isn’t progressively whitening your teeth like at-home teeth trays or in office whitening treatments. If anything, it’s simply just cleaning the teeth.

Is activated charcoal teeth whitening safe?

There doesn’t seem to be enough studies and proven evidence to definitively state whether or not charcoal teeth whitening is safe. While the FDA has approved many activated charcoal products, the ADA has yet to give their seal of approval.

If taking the leap and trying charcoal teeth whitening, please be cautious. That being said, there are many professional teeth whitening services to choose, which are actually proven to be safe. Talk to your dentist about your options today!

Charcoal teeth whitening dangers

Though not stamped unsafe or safe, there are still potential dangers. If you are only using charcoal toothpaste when brushing your teeth, then you may have issues with the levels of fluoride for your teeth. Most regular toothpastes have enough fluoride in them to protect teeth from decay. Charcoal toothpastes do not.

Some dentists worry about charcoal affecting the enamel and leading to tooth erosion. The abrasiveness of activated charcoal powder is still unknown. Further, teeth cannot heal themselves. Once erosion occurs, there is no turning back. And though there haven’t been studies to prove charcoal harms your teeth, the issue is that there has yet to be any formal testing to prove it won’t hurt your teeth.

Additionally, as previously mentioned, activated charcoal is like a magnet. So if it is ingested, it could also absorb the effectiveness of medication you may have taken. Be careful if deciding to orally use charcoal for any reason.

What’s the verdict on charcoal teeth whitening?

At the end of the day, charcoal whitening is not really whitening your teeth. It does seem to do a decent job at removing tougher stains from coffee, dark soda, and wine consumption.

Are Juuls, Vapes and E-cigs bad for teeth?

Do you remember the days of restaurants with smoking and nonsmoking sections? Those days are practically long gone across the country. It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes and use of other tobacco products can have lasting negative effects on the mouth. That being said, there are new trends popping up every year cited as healthy alternatives to this and that. One of those trends to combat the lack of smoking-friendly establishments is using juuls, vapes, and e-cigs.

You have most likely seen one in a corner store or gas station – vape pens, juuls, and electronic cigarettes became a fad rather quickly in the mid-2000s. They are made to produce water vapor, which gives the illusion of smoke. A liquid mixture containing nicotine is smoked and exhaled as an aerosol, or vapor cloud.

What’s the difference between vaping and smoking?

Because they are “smokeless,” switching over from smoking cigarettes to vape pens and e-cigs was originally thought of (and is still marketed) as having two major benefits:

  1. It is not as unhealthy as smoking, and…
  2. You can once again smoke indoors.

While it initially seems to make sense that using e-cigs is a supposedly better alternative to actually smoking a cigarette… both of the proposed e-cig benefits did not soundly hold up after extensive research was found.

study from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that while vaping, the heated coils in e-cigs can leak unsafe amounts of toxic metals. If these toxic metals are consistently inhaled into the body via vape pens, you could experience anything from lung disease to brain damage. This has also been linked to cancer!

What are common symptoms from using Juuls, Vapes, and E-Cigs?

Many vapes, juuls, and e-cigs still use nicotine. This is not good for any part of the body, including the mouth. Nicotine causes damage in the form of receding gums due to decreased blood flow to gums, leading to periodontal disease. Yikes!

Additionally, because there is less oxygen and blood flow to the vessels, your mouth has a much harder time fighting bacteria. A weaker mouth can more easily invite decay and infections at increased rates.

Dry mouth is one of the biggest culprits from using smokeless vape devices. This is because there is a chemical, Propylene Glycol, which pulls the moisture from inside your mouth. With dry mouth often comes tooth decay.

Known as a sore or inflamed mouth, stomatitis affects your mouth’s lining and can lead to lesions anywhere orally – the palate, inner cheek, gums, etc – yet in this case,  sores primarily linked to vaping are generally found on the palate. Stomatitis tends to be rather painful. Any high concentration of heat entering the mouth can lead to irritation, as can chemicals such as nicotine.

Other side effects of vaping include:

  • dizziness
  • dry eyes and skin
  • nose bleeds
  • smoker’s cough
  • canker sores
  • nausea

Does vaping have any benefits?

If anything, vaping around others is marginally better than smoking because it lacks the secondhand smoke. Regardless, many nonsmokers still do not care for vapor clouds or the smell from scented or flavored vapor. In addition, many establishments do not allow vaping indoors.

Vaping is Bad for Your Teeth and Mouth

The most honest conclusion is that yes, using juuls, e-cigs, and vapes are just not good for your health, especially when pertaining to your mouth. While not everyone who uses a vape, juul, or e-cig will have dental issues, it is best to recognize symptoms, while knowing how to better protect your teeth and gums. Do your oral health a favor and kick any smokingrelated habits and be a happier, healthier you.

Use It Or Lose It: Guide for Getting the Most Out of Your Dental Benefits Before the End of the Year

According to the National Association of Dental Plans, only 2.8% of people with Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Dental Plan reach or exceed their annual plan’s maximum. That is an alarmingly low number. The National Association of Dental Plans states that roughly 64% of the population has dental coverage.

If your dental plan is on a calendar year, the plan resets on January 1, 2019. If you do not use up the amount in your plan, the maximum does not roll over and you lose it. This means that whatever money you have not used in your plan before December 31, 2018, you are eligible to use before the end of the year.

There are two types of dental insurances that you can either buy privately or your company provides for you through their benefit plan.

  • HMO gives you access to certain dentists and dentist office within its network. The dentist has to be signed up to be a HMO provider.
  • PPO gives you the opportunity to go to any PPO dentist of your choice. You are not assigned a dentist. The dentist is in contracted rates with insurance companies, therefore, this plan offers a balance of lowered cost fees and you typically pay a certain percentage of the reduced rate. The plan pays the rest.

Additionally, many people also get FSA and HSA benefits. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) are accounts set up by employers to allow their employees to obtain reimbursement for various medical expenses. Typically they reimburse employees through paychecks or provide them with a debit card that is strictly just used for medical purposes. Health Savings Account (HSA) are funds you withdraw tax-free from your paycheck when used to pay for qualified medical expenses.

On average, most dental plans provide the patient with an average of $1,000 of maximum spending per the calendar year. They typically cover preventative work at a 100 percent. Basic work at 80 percent and major work at 50 percent. That said, it is important to know and understand your specific dental plan and what it offers.

Tips For Using Your Dental Plan

  • Preventative Care
    • Most dental insurance companies will cover this at 100 percent
    • Allows two routine check-ups and cleanings per year
    • Get the work done to prevent cavities or other dental work
    • Many include bitewings and x-rays
    • Does not use deductible or co-pay
  • Basic Work/Major Work (Large Treatments)
    • Have to pay a deductible – if you paid it for that year, why pay it again next year
    • Plan pays for most of the work, but could change the following year
    • Basic work includes fillings for cavities
    • Major work includes crownsroot canals, and bridges (does not include cosmetic dentistry)
  • Plan Could Change Following Year
    • If your employer gets a different insurance company the following year, your coverage, deductibles and maximums can change
    • Insurance companies can change the negotiated fees due to cost of living, equipment, and materials needed
  • Dental Problems Can Worsen
    • Have a cavity? This can turn into a root canal
    • Chipped tooth turns into a cracked tooth that leads to pain and requires a crown
    • If you wait last minute to seek treatment, dentist could be booked through the holidays or the office will be closed
  • Start Thinking of Coverage Early
    • Talk to your dentist about treatments they recommend throughout the year. This way you can budget and plan out your FSA, or HSA.
    • Make your your checkup early in the year, this way any major work can be caught and fixed before it worsens

Talk to your local Jefferson Dental office about your dental plan. They will consult and advise you on the best way to use your plan for the calendar year. If you are unclear on how your plan works, or what your benefits entail, our staff will always contact the insurance company about the break down of your plan’s benefits. Your employer will have copies of your plan as well.

Always plan carefully; do not forget to include routine check-ups (they are free after all), cleanings, and back-to-school visits. Make sure to schedule your six-month routine check-up while at the dentist to ensure you do not forget or skip it. Also, if you wait last minute and book it in December, there is a good chance your dentist will be booked for the remainder of the year.

The Effects of Gum Disease on Children

Periodontal (gum) Disease  is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place destroying the gums of the mouth. It is caused when there is a buildup of plaque on the teeth from lack of brushing, flushing, and proper dental hygiene. When you do not treat the plaque with proper dental care, it hardens and turns into tarter. The plaque grows in the mouth if it is not removed.

There are three main types of gum disease that occur in children the most.

  • Gingivitis: This causes the gums to be swollen, sensitive and be prone to bleeding.
    • Target Age: All ages
  • Aggressive Periodontitis: If the gingivitis goes untreated, it can get more aggressive and target the molars and incisors. This can lead to bone loss in the mouth, which is very serious because bone loss leads to loose teeth.
    • Target Age: Young adults and teens
  • Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis: This involves excessive plaque buildup. This can result in gum loss and teeth loss.
    • Target Age: Children after puberty

The good news about gum disease is that the symptoms are usually obvious with the child and the parent. If you notice excessive bleeding, or if they say they are in pain from brushing or eating, these can be early signs of gum problems. A lot of times if your child fights you on the idea of brushing their teeth, it usually is a red flag that there is something wrong.

Here are the symptoms you can look out for with your children:

  • Bad breath that will not go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or sensitive gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing and sensitive teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gum lines
  • Pus between teeth

Unfortunately, some children are at risk of periodontal disease more than others. For example, certain genes lead to higher risk of gum disease. Children who breathe heavily through their mouths are also at higher risk. Mouth breathing leads to dry mouth, which can lead to severe drying of the gums and teeth in the front of the mouth. Children with diabetes or autoimmune diseases are also higher at risk of infections in the gums. Hormonal changes during puberty can also be a risk factor. Lastly, certain medicines can cause an overgrowth of gums, so always make sure to look into the side effects of medications before giving them to your child.


Advice for Parents

As a parent, it is important to be a good role model for your children. The best advice to give to parents is to set up good preventative care with your child and establish oral hygiene habits early.

  • Stress importance of oral hygiene to children. Talk about what that means for their health and why it is important.
  • Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
  • Make sure your child flosses daily, this gets out trapped food between teeth and gums that toothbrushes cannot reach. Trapped food leads to decay, which leads to plaque.
  • See your Jefferson Dental dentist for regular comprehensive periodontal examination as part of their routine dental visits.
  • Ensure the child eats a healthy and balanced diet that is low in sugar and starchy carbs.

The most important takeaway is that it is always important to be a good role model for your child and set good dental hygiene examples. If a child sees your routine, they are much more likely to follow. Periodontal disease can be severe, so it is important to watch for early signs of symptoms in your child. You and your child can prevent gum disease simply through good dental care. However, if you see early signs or notice anything different in your child’s mouth, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. The sooner it is caught, the easier it is to treat.


The food you feed your child can have a lasting effect on his or her oral health. In fact, diet plays a major role in whether a child develops cavities and decay, which can lead to many dental visits and potential tooth loss. So what should you feed your child to ensure he or she has a healthy smile for life?

Foods to Avoid

It is normal for your child to take interest in many foods — especially those filled with sugar and carbohydrates. But as tasty as these foods are, they can cause rapid decay when eaten in excess. That’s not to say your child can never have sugar again. Dr. Seguin and Dr. Long and our staff suggest limiting starchy and sugary foods such as candy and potato chips as much as possible.

Remember that some seemingly healthy foods can present the threat of decay too. Some of the most common culprits are sticky foods like peanut butter, raisins, and granola bars, which can stick to the teeth after eating. If you serve these foods to your child, be sure to have him or her brush immediately after eating to remove any lingering sugary residue.


Many beverages marketed toward children contain sugar servings that far exceed the daily recommendations from national health organizations. They suggest no more than three to four teaspoons of added sugar per day for young children.

Make an effort to serve only water to your child any time other than meal times. During meals, allow your child to have milk or juice, but in limited serving sizes. Most importantly, never allow your young child to sleep with a bottle or “sippie cup” full of juice or milk. Doing so can cause rapid tooth decay: a condition known as “baby bottle caries.”


Toothpastes come in many forms and boast different flavors, benefits, and endorsements. All are designed to remove surface bacteria and prevent the buildup of plaque that can cause tooth decay. With so many choices, Dr. Seguin and Dr. Long and our team at Dental Care of San Antonio know that selecting the right toothpaste can be intimidating. After all, some benefits are welcome bonuses, while others are absolutely essential. So how can you know which toothpaste is best for you?

ADA Seal of Approval

While all toothpastes must first be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale to consumers, the American Dental Association puts these products through further rigorous tests for safety and effectiveness. Toothpaste that boasts the ADA Seal of Approval can be trusted to do exactly what it claims.


Fluoride is an essential ingredient in a daily toothpaste. It helps to protect the tooth from decay by removing plaque and strengthening the enamel. Although fluoride is found in many public water supplies, many people are deficient in it due to the consumption of bottled water instead of tap water. All toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Approval contain fluoride.

Other benefits

If a toothpaste meets the ADA’s standards and contains fluoride, the next step is to clear it with your dentist. This is especially true if you decide to use a whitening toothpaste, which often contains abrasives to remove surface stains. Though abrasives are an effective aid in tooth whitening, they may not be recommended if you have weak tooth enamel.


You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective.

Now, you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.

Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer.

At our San Antonio, TX office, we like to say the best brush is the one you’ll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on.

Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other problems
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums

Manual Toothbrushes

  • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
  • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
  • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
  • Manual brushes are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions.

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile or help explain dental procedures. Maybe someday we’ll even have programs that examine your teeth after brushing and identify spots you might have missed.


Xylitol tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it is not converted to acid that can cause your teeth to decay. It’s a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables; even the human body produces it in small amounts. Xylitol is widely used in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, candies, and even certain forms of medicine.

The World Health Organization has approved xylitol because only a small amount is needed for its health benefits. It’s even safe for diabetics, with a glycemic index of only seven. Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than other types of carbs: less than three calories per gram.

So how can this natural sweetener benefit your oral health? Take a look at the facts. Tooth decay starts when bacteria consumes the sugars left in your mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria on your teeth will multiply and make acid that can destroy your enamel.

Xylitol is derived from fibrous parts of plants, so it does not break down like a regular sugar. It actually helps maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth, which in turn prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. The bacteria are then unable to digest xylitol, which means your teeth won’t develop enamel damage and cavities.

Studies have shown the consumption of xylitol as a sugar substitute or a dietary addition had a dramatic reduction in new cavities and even reversed existing cavities. These effects are long lasting: low cavity rates remained years after the trials were done.

When there’s less bacteria and acid in your mouth due to xylitol, your teeth stay healthier. The more frequently it’s ingested, the more you will prevent enamel damage.

Aim to consume around five grams a day, or one gram every three hours if possible. You can do this by consuming gum, tablets, candy, or mints that have xylitol as one of the first ingredients after your meals. You can find these products in health food stores and specialty grocery stores.

Since xylitol replaces sugar on a one-to-one ratio, it’s used in several common items:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth rinse
  • Baby oral wipes, gel, and pacifiers
  • Nasal wash
  • Dry mouth spray
  • Granulated forms for cooking
  • Granulated packets to add to drinks
  • Commercially prepared foods


You went through a lot of effort and work to achieve your perfect smile. You wore your Invisalign aligner trays, brushed and flossed diligently, and now your treatment is done! What happens now?

In order to keep your teeth healthy and beautiful, you should keep several practices in play.


Although everyone’s needs are different, many patients require a retainer after Invisalign treatment. If a retainer is recommended by Dr. Seguin and Dr. Long, use it as directed. Not wearing retainers could result in shifting teeth and potentially ruin your results.

It’s also recommended that you avoid hard, crunchy foods for the first few weeks as your teeth adjust. For younger patients, retainers are normally worn until the wisdom teeth come in or are extracted.

Brushing and Flossing

It should come as no surprise that flossing should still be done every day to remove plaque, which can develop into tartar or calculus. The build-up can lead to gingivitis and gum disease.

Your gums may be more sensitive for a week or two after your orthodontic work is completed. A warm saltwater rinse may relieve discomfort.

Because your teeth have been protected by your Invisalign aligners and are now fully exposed, they may be more sensitive the first few weeks after treatment. If that’s the case, we can recommend a sensitive toothpaste to relieve your discomfort. If your teeth are stained, a professional whitening treatment may be considered.

Regular Dental Checkups

Regular dental exams ensure your teeth stay healthy for life. Professional cleanings, X-rays, and cavity treatment can be addressed by staying on top of your routine checkups.