Winter is coming: smile uninterrupted with these tips

Winter can be harsh on your oral health. From sores to tooth sensitivity to reduced immunity resulting in increased incidence of viral infections. Know all the effects of winters on your oral health and how to take care of them.

1.      Dry Mouth: Like your skin, winter also dries up your mouth. The effect might be accentuated because of the increased intake of hot beverages especially tea and coffee which are dehydrating by itself. Dryness of the mouth has multiple oral effects, including sensitivity and increased tooth cavities.

What should you do: Drink lots of fluids. Hot beverages like green tea on or those containing ginger or honey are preferable. Avoid excessive consumption of tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks just to keep warm. Also if you need to consume these drinks, supplement them with water to avoid the dehydration.

2.     Chapped lips:  A very common occurrence during winters, chapped lips are due to the dehydration of the thin skin of the lips by the dry winter air. Chapped lips not only hurt by themselves, the fissures caused in the lips are a breeding ground for bacteria. This complicates the dryness with infection and swelling of the lips, which then require professional care.

What should you do: Always keep your lips lubricated. Take more precaution when you are going for any outdoor activity. Petroleu8m jelly is an economic way of keeping your lips moist and lubricated.

3.     Canker sore: Canker sores are ulcers in the mouth that suddenly appear, and hurt while eating or drinking something hot or spicy. You might notice ulcerations in the mouth that appear more often than usual. This might be due to the thinning and dryness of the oral tissue, that is coupled with increased consumption of acidic beverages or spicy foods consumed in larger quantities during winters.

What should you do: Avoid excessive consumption of acidic food/ beverages and keep your mouth lubricated. Also, if you already have the ulcers apply glycerine or any over the counter jelly on the surface of the ulcers 15 minutes before a meal. This would prevent the pain/ burning sensation from the ulcers while eating.

If your ulcer does not subside by itself within 15 days get it professionally evaluated

4.     Tooth sensitivity: That feeling of numbness while biting on something cold seems to be constant during winters. Sensitivity during cold season is increased and can last for longer durations than in summers. This can also be attributed to the fact that the temperature of the drinking water is also lower than that in summers. Avoiding cold foods/ basic drinking water is neither feasible nor advisable.

What should you do: Use specific desensitizing tooth pastes during winter. Also, get your mouth evaluated for conditions that can lead to sensitivity and get them fixed at the earliest.

Initial sensitivity can be reversed by home remedies, this is not the case with more advanced lesions that require more expensive and invasive interventional treatments. Get your sensitivity evaluated at the earliest.

5.     Common cold: The general immunity is lower in winters. This is famously known as the “flu season”. Its importance from the oral point of view includes

·        Keeping a good about of hydration by consuming lots of hot beverages (avoid black tea and coffee)

·        Change you brush immediately after you recover from the flu. The virus from the flu enter the mouth through the blood supply and from there get stuck in the bristles of the brush.

6.     Viral infections in and around the mouth/ cold sores: Viral infections in and around the mouth are very common during winters. The thing with viruses is that once they get in they never really leave the body. They have the tendency to remain in a dormant mode and can get activated due to some trigger factors that include stress or cold weather. Virus related paralysis of the face have also been reported with a greater incidence during winters. The more common viral infections that occur during the winter in and around the mouth include

·        Cold sores: The most common viral infection around the mouth causes cold sore. It is caused by a virus known as HSV and is present in 80% of the adult population. Cold sores present blisters at the sides of the mouth that hurt and make lip movement like smiling difficult. They hurt and can be associate with fever or malaise a few days before they appear. This is contagious and can spread by touching on the sores and the touching on any other part.

What should you do: Avoid chapping of the lips. It is one of the most common reason if activation of the virus. Also avoid touching your mouth with you hand very often. With a large incidence of HSV, they are mostly always present at your fingertips. Touching your mouth often transfers them an environment where they like to grow and divide.

·        Swelling of the gums/Multiple small ulcers in the palate: Again caused by the activation of the same virus in a different region. The swelling/ ulcers are very painful and can cause difficulty in eating and drinking.

What should you do: Apply glycerine or any other over the counter gel to cover the ulcers and remain hydrated.

Like skin, your mouth also requires special care during winters. Follow the tips given above and smile uninterrupted through the season.

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