Back to School and Back to Lots of Kids in small quarters to share friendships, smiles and the dreaded cold and flu viruses.

With the warmth of summer sun on our skin and the daily slathering of sunscreen and the fact that the kids just got out of school here in the Pacific Northwest, it is hard to bring ourselves back to the reality that fall is just around the corner and BACK TO SCHOOL is fast approaching.

Flu and Cold Season are making their way around again and school has not even started. Here are a few important things about mouth health during illness.

Brushing During Illness

When the nose is stuffy, your child will be mouth-breathing. Mouth breathing dries out the mouth makes plaque stickier. Your child’s appetite will already be decreased. If the mouth is yuck, then even the little bit of food he eats may taste BAD!

Things to remember:

  1. Toothpaste may not taste good when your child is sick.
  2. It is okay to brush the teeth only with water.
  3. The mechanical movement of the toothbrush against the teeth will remove plaque.
  4. The cool water on the brush will help her mouth feel a little fresher and more comfortable.

How to do it:

If your child is feeling too sick to get out of bed, brush the teeth in bed.  Have a tall glass of water nearby.  Brush one area of the mouth, dip the brush in water, brush another area, repeat.

By dipping the brush in the water, you are rinsing off the brush so you are not just moving the plaque and bacteria from one side to the other.

What to Do After Throwing Up

Throwing up or Vomiting will bring a lot of stomach acid into the mouth. Brushing the teeth right after throwing up will only spread the acid around the mouth and coat the teeth with acid.

Resist the temptation of brushing the teeth immediately after throwing up. Instead, rinse the mouth with A LOT of water.

Sanitize the Toothbrush

Some studies have found that bacteria and viruses can live on hard, non-porous, moist surfaces for up to 72 hours (that’s 3 days)! Bacteria need WATER and a hard surface to grow!

Your can reduce the illness-causing bacteria and viruses left on your child’s toothbrush by sanitizing her brush in the dishwasher. Just put the toothbrush in the utensils basket where you put forks and spoons.

At minimum, allow the toothbrush to dry out completely during the day by placing it on the counter instead of a dark drawer.

Keep Hydrated  

Dehydration can lead to serious medical complications, especially for children.  If your child has diarrhea, vomiting and/or fever, she may be losing fluids rapidly.  In addition, dehydration dries out the mouth- there is less saliva.

Make sure she stays hydrated by offering a little bit of liquid frequently until she is able to keep it down.

Signs of Dehydration:

  1. crying without tears
  2. peeing less often or not at all (no wet diapers)
  3. has a dry mouth
  4. fussy or cries more than usual

If you child has any of these signs of dehydration, contact her pediatrician IMMEDIATELY!

Creative ways to get your child to drink

  1. ice cubes or ice chips
  2. frozen juice- make it into juice chips or homemade popsicles
  3. popsicles- twin pops and otter pops were favorites at our house
  4. soup- start with clear soups if there vomiting or diarrhea
  5. put liquids in a fun container to get her interested


Your child’s medicines are meant to help him feel better sooner. Most medications for children are liquid, syrupy and sticky.

Drink water after giving liquid medications. The water will help your little one swallow the medicine and offer some hydration. If he doesn’t feel like drinking, then at least, rinse the mouth.

The only time you want to leave the syrupy coating on the mouth is if there are mouth or throat sores and the medicine is helping soothe the sores.

When to See a Dentist

Sometimes a rare, severe reaction to a virus can cause intense pain and bleeding gums.

A child’s first exposure to the Herpes Simples, Type I virus generally does not cause any symptoms. However, a small percentage of kids can have a very strong reaction. They are usually young (less than 3 years old) and have VERY RED, BLEEDING and PAINFUL gums. This is very scary because of how much bleeding is coming from the mouth.

See a dentist immediately if you suspect your child has this condition.


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