Being sick is never fun. Between having a stuffy nose, sore throat, and coughing, having a cold is not on anyone’s wish list. However, each year adults in the United States suffer between two and three colds, making this sickness one of the most common .
A cold can affect your energy, appetite, and even lead to an additional infection, such as a sinus or ear infection. But can a cold affect your oral health? Here’s what you need to know about the common cold and your dental health.
Congestion Can Reduce Saliva Flow
The congestion most people experience with colds can cause them to breathe through their mouths. Although mouth breathing in and of itself isn’t necessarily harmful, it does dry out the oral cavity, which reduces saliva flow and can disrupt the bacteria in your mouth. These changes can lead to an increased risk of cavities and tooth enamel damage, not to mention bad breath.
Decongestants can amplify this effect because they have a drying effect on the body, making dry mouth from a cold worse. In addition, having enough saliva in the first place can help reduce the growth of viruses and bacteria in the oral cavity, making it imperative for not just your oral health, but your bodily health as well .
A Sinus Infection Can Cause Tooth Pain
If your cold leads to a sinus infection, also called sinusitis, you may experience tooth pain in your upper teeth, most commonly in the rear upper teeth. This pain happens because the sinus cavity fills with fluid, which puts pressure on the roots of the teeth . The pain can feel like a toothache, but it won’t be localized to one tooth, which is one way of telling whether it’s a genuine toothache or if your discomfort is the result of a sinus infection.
A sinus infection with tooth pain may also cause symptoms such as pain or pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and nose. People with a sinus infection also typically do not have any sense of taste or smell.
Some Viruses Can Cause Oral Lesions
Some illnesses, including COVID-19 and the common cold, can cause lesions in the oral cavity that are like ulcers . In some cases, having a cold can also lead to the development of canker sores and cold sores.
These oral lesions are related to lower immunity, which means your body isn’t able to protect you from the development of the lesions. Fortunately, these lesions don’t necessarily affect oral health. They can be uncomfortable and take a couple weeks to go away, however.
Should You Visit Your Dentist While You Have a Cold?
If you have a cold, don’t visit your dentist, even if you are experiencing oral health symptoms. The best thing to do is to contact your dentist if you are concerned about your teeth, gums, or oral lesions that won’t go away. Your dentist will discuss your symptoms with you and let you know when it’s safe to come in for an appointment.