What Happens To Your Teeth When You Are Ill?

Chelmsford dentist, Bhavin Bhuva, explains some of the problems that can arise

Dr Bhavin Bhuva at Blue Sky DentalIn normal times, the majority of us will take fairly good care of our teeth. We will brush them both morning and night in an attempt to avoid tooth decay and the often accompanying toothache. This is a good start, although there is usually room for improvement; the addition of regular flossing being a good case in point for many folk.

What happens when we are ill though, and our normal routines are disrupted as we feel too ill to look after ourselves as we should? Even as we start to get better, we may find that we are still very tired as our bodies slowly recover and it could be some time before we return to our normal tooth friendly routine.

With the talk of a ‘second wave’ of the coronavirus and the fact that winter colds and flus are probably not as far away as some of us might wish, Blue Sky Dental have decided to take a look at the possible damage that our teeth can suffer during illness, so that our patients are forearmed with the relevant knowledge.


When we have a heavy cold or flu, we often sweat a lot and also sneezing is common as our bodies try to fight the virus. Although this is unpleasant, it does serve a purpose. Especially if we feel ill though, we may be reluctant to move from bed or the sofa to get a drink to rehydrate ourselves. Unfortunately, this will result in a dry mouth which, as we have noted before, provides a perfect breeding ground for the potentially harmful bacteria in our mouths. This could lead to both gum disease and tooth decay if allowed to continue.

Do try to have some water nearby so that you can have a drink without having to leave your sick bed. Although soft drinks may be tempting to give us some energy, these are best avoided due to their sugar content.


Some bugs and viruses may cause us to vomit. This is unpleasant in itself but is also very harmful for our teeth. As we ‘throw up’ we eject stomach acid which passes over our teeth. Given that this is around the same acidity level as battery acid, it isn’t hard to see that this is not good for your teeth. Especially if this happens for a few days, it can really damage the protective enamel on our teeth.

It may be tempting to brush your teeth after vomiting in order to remove the taste from your mouth. As the acids will have softened the enamel though, this isn’t a good idea. Once you have been sick, take small sips of water which will help to wash away the acids from the teeth. You should leave at least half an hour after vomiting before you brush your teeth to allow the enamel time to harden again.

Sinus pain

It isn’t uncommon to have sinus problems when you are ill. One side effect of this is that you may experience some degree of toothache caused by a buildup of pressure. Although this can be uncomfortable, it should only be temporary and you may find that your usual painkiller will help to ease any discomfort. If your toothache does not go following your recovery, please consult Blue Sky Dental to have this investigated further.


Few medicines actually do much to fight a virus, but they do allow some of the side effects to be less unpleasant. Unfortunately, many of these come in liquid suspensions that contain high levels of sugar in order to mask the often bitter taste. Cough sweets too usually come in the form of a sweet to make them more palatable. In fact sweets are worse than a liquid as we generally swallow that quite quickly. We are likely to keep a sweet in our mouth for some time, allowing the sticky sugars to become attached to our teeth.

Tooth neglect

If we are coughing or sneezing a lot, all we probably want to do at the end of the day is to get into bed and hope that we feel better in the morning. All too often though, this means that we simply don’t bother to brush our teeth before we go to sleep. With our teeth coated in sugars and bacteria overnight, probably with a dry mouth too, it’s easy to see how this could be harmful to both teeth and gums. However hard it seems, do try to at least brush your teeth at night, however ill you feel; even a half hearted brush is better than no brushing at all.

Once you have fully recovered from your illness, it is a good idea to have your mouth health checked by a dentist. In many cases, any problems will be able to be reversed through returning to your usual brushing and flossing. Where a small cavity has formed though, it is better that this is filled as soon as possible, rather than leave it until your next check up date which could be several months away.

If you have been ill, providing that you have fully recovered and are no longer infectious, and you wish to make an appointment with us, please call our Chelmsford dental clinic on 01245 211070.

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