How Your Cold Can Cause Gingivitis

When you get a cold, you will most likely experience nasal congestion, a sore throat, sneezing, and possibly, body aches. While these are the most common symptoms of a rhinovirus infection, your cold may actually heighten your risk of developing gum disease. While not common, gum inflammation, pain, redness, and bleeding can develop in conjunction with your cold. Here are two ways a cold can put you at risk for gingivitis and what you can do about them:

Bacterial-Laden Nasal Discharge 

If you have a cold, chances are you will experience post nasal drip. This refers to the backflow of nasal discharge down the back of your throat that is often the result of blocked sinuses. Not all post nasal drip raises your risk for gum disease, but when it is caused by a bacterial infection, you may susceptible.

Bacterial post nasal drip contains infection-causing microorganisms that can continually bathe your mouth and gums in germs. In severe cases, these germs can even damage your restorations such as dental crowns and veneers.

If you have a cold and notice that mucus is slipping down your throat, use a saline nasal spray to help clear your sinuses. Also, drink plenty of water to help thin out secretions, but avoid caffeinated beverages, which can worsen post nasal drip.

Also, see your physician who will determine if your upper respiratory infection is bacterial in nature, rather than viral. If so, he or she may prescribe a course of antibiotics. Once your infection has cleared, your risk for gingivitis will also subside. 

Cold Medications

If you are suffering from nasal congestion or a runny nose, you may reach for an antihistamine or decongestant. Both of these medications can limit the amount of saliva that your salivary glands produce, resulting in a dry mouth. If your mouth remains too dry for long periods of time, bacteria will build up and raise your risk for gum disease.

Adequate salivary flow helps wash away the germs in your mouth that cause gingivitis. If you take cold medications, drink water to restore oral moisture. If this fails to resolve your dry mouth, talk to your dentist about a lubricating mouthwash which will help protect your oral tissues, including your gums.

Moisture-restoring mouthwashes are also available without a prescription, however, make sure that the product is enzyme-based rather than alcohol-based. Mouthwashes that contain alcohol may further dry out your mouth, and while they are effective in eliminating bacteria, they may further impede salivary flow. 

If you have a cold or other upper respiratory infection, visit both your dentist and primary physician for further evaluation and treatment. When gum problems are recognized and treated early on, you are less likely to experience complications such as periodontitis, a severe form of gingivitis that may damage the bones that support your teeth.