What Happens To Your Teeth When You Become Ill?

How common illnesses like colds and flu can have a detrimental effect on your teeth.

Although dosing up on vitamin C, washing your hands frequently and avoiding people that you know have a cold, might help to keep down the number of colds we get each year, the virus usually manages to find a way to catch up with us at some point. When this happens, we tend to feel under the weather and lethargic and less bothered perhaps, about the way we take care of ourselves.

Colds usually only last a few days, but flus and some other illnesses can last much longer. It is especially when we have these latter illnesses that our oral health care can sometimes take a back seat.

Does the virus attack our teeth?

The answer to this is no, not directly. As far as we are aware, the cold and flu virus doesn’t have a direct effect on our teeth or gums. Indirectly though, feeling ill and not at our best can create conditions that do mean a likely deterioration in the health of both teeth and gums.

Our Burton dental team have identified a number of ways in which this can happen.


It used to be said that drinking plenty of water would flush the virus from the body. This is now largely thought not to be true. What is true is that when we are ill, we do tend to  suffer from dehydration, and this definitely can have a negative effect on our oral health.

A healthy saliva flow helps to flush both food particles and bacteria from the teeth and gums. It also helps to maintain a less acidic environment too. Too much acidity will harm the enamel on our teeth and dehydration also means that gum disease is much more likely. To this end, we recommend that all patients of Mike Allen’s Dental Practice try to drink water when they are ill, however much they might not feel like doing so.


If you are suffering from a bug that causes you to vomit, the stomach acids that pass over the teeth are highly destructive. It is for this reason that bulimics tend to have badly damaged teeth. Although your mouth may taste disgusting after you have vomited, do not be tempted to brush your teeth straight away as this will damage them further. Wait for at least half an hour before doing so. To ease the taste in your mouth, swill water around and spit it out.


Although colds don’t cause tooth decay, some patients experience toothache when they have a cold or flu. This is usually caused by a build up in sinus pressure and should ease as you recover. If the discomfort continues after you have recovered, do make sure to have it checked at our Burton dental practice.

Cough syrups, pastilles etc

When we have a cough or a tickly throat, we are likely to reach for a cough syrup or suck a pastille. As these would otherwise taste pretty awful to most people, some are very high in sugar, to make them palatable. This sticky medication clings very easily to our teeth and is not easily removed by saliva alone. If you do use these products, do make sure to brush and floss your teeth well. Under no circumstances should you use either of these after you have brushed your teeth at night before going to bed.


As our bodies fight off a viral infection, we often feel more tired and listless than usual. When we feel like this, we may not feel like cooking fresh food and rely instead on comforting junk food that is high in sugar. To make things worse, we are equally likely to either skip brushing our teeth, or doing so halfheartedly. Especially where an illness lasts for more than a few days, this can soon cause some damage. However tired you feel, do try to spend a few minutes both brushing and flossing your teeth.

We can’t help falling ill from time to time, but we can determine whether this has a negative effect on our teeth or not. Making just a little effort and using a little wisdom will help us to recover from an illness with no damage to our teeth.

Particularly if you have been ill for more than a few days, we recommend that you book yourself an appointment at Mike Allen’s Dental Practice to have your teeth examined, Early intervention could mean the difference between serious damage or not. We may also recommend that you have an appointment with the hygienist to have your teeth cleaned and help restore your oral health.

If you would like to make an appointment to see us, you can do so by calling our Burton dental clinic on 01283 845345. Our friendly team are on hand to get you booked in.