Most of us are aware of having skin changes during winter, though are less mindful of how our oral health is affected when the weather is cooler. However, people with sensitive teeth and a dry mouth often become acutely aware that a lowered temperature, as well as a decrease in moisture in the air can cause an increase in sensitivity.
There’s not much we can do about the seasons, but there are some things we can try to reduce the likelihood of mouth discomfort when the temperature drops.
During winter when colds and flu peak, and blocked noses are a common symptom, mouth breathing speeds up dehydration. It’s important to stay well hydrated at any time, but particularly when our immune system is working overtime and fighting off, or dealing with an infection. Keeping the lips and mucous membranes in the mouth moist, helps to support recovery, prevent tissues from becoming dehydrated and teeth from becoming sensitive. Drinking sips of water frequently also helps to maintain saliva flow which is protective against developing tooth decay.
Use a lip balm, preferably with a SPF (sun protection factor) to protect your lips from drying and chapping. If you’re prone to cold sores, keeping your lips hydrated will help to reduce the risk of activating the herpes virus and a cold sore developing. Care well for the delicate skin on your lips and avoid them becoming rough and dry. Lock the moisture in and keep lip balm close and handy in your desk, pocket or bag.
If your immunity is lowered because of having a cold or the flu, your oral hygiene will need special attention. Bacteria quickly multiply in the warm, moist area of the mouth, and feed on food particles left on the teeth and gums. Frequent snacking and winter ‘comfort eating’ often leads to changes in the acid level of the mouth which increases the risk of decay.
At the end of a long day when your warm bed is calling you, it may be tempting to rush your flossing and brushing routine. But it’s worth investing just a couple of minutes into your oral hygiene habits, especially before going to bed when saliva flow slows and there’s less protective ‘buffering’ on the teeth. Use a timer if you’re prone to rushing- around two minutes is the ideal brushing time.
Use a desensitising toothpaste if you’re prone to sensitive teeth. These contain compounds which help to cover and heal the patches on the teeth where the protective outer layer has worn away, or is missing. Follow your dentist’s advise about what product is right for you.