Brother and sister brushing their teeth with mom to keep up their oral health in the winter

How Your Oral Health Changes in the Winter

We’re all familiar with the toll the winter months can take on our health as cold and flu activity increases and COVID continues to circulate — but your oral health can also suffer in the winter months. 

The cold, dry air in wintertime makes it easier to get dehydrated – which leaves the mouth vulnerable to infections and sores. And as our body’s immune system fights off virus after virus, it may be weaker and more likely to host a bacterial infection.  

Here are some of the ways winter can affect your oral health:  

Dry mouth  

As people stay mostly indoors in the winter, it’s easy to be exposed to a cold virus or the flu – which can clog up the airways in your nose and make it hard to breath. You may end up breathing out of just one side of your nose – or out of your mouth.  

Breathing through your mouth in cold, dry conditions can speed up dehydration. Without enough saliva, your mouth will have a harder time fighting off infections – in addition to the general discomfort of cracked lips and a dry mouth.  

Throughout the day, make sure you take sips of water to keep your mouth happy and to stave off dehydration. 

Sensitivity  

Going from a warm home or car out into the cold can be a shock to the nerves in your face. To insulate the nerves in your face and jaw from the cold, wrap a scarf over your mouth and face to keep it protected against the harsh elements.  

Sores  

Cold weather, as well as seasonal colds and the flu, can cause an outbreak of cold sores. Keeping your lips moisturized with a balm or cream can help stave off cold sores. Also, keep your hands clean and avoid touching your mouth.  

Canker sores – which occur inside the mouth – are also more common in the winter. With the dry winter weather, drier mouths can leave you with less saliva. This makes you more vulnerable to the small infections that cause canker sores. 

Gum infections  

The body’s immune system can easily become weakened in the winter as it battles colds and the flu. Coupled with drier mouths due to dehydration, bacteria can easily grow in the gums – which can lead to an infection.  

Cavities  

From Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s and Valentine’s Day – there are lots of sweets and treats to go around in the winter. Despite the festivities and busy season, don’t skip your twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing. Consider brushing your teeth again after a big meal as well. 

Dehydration in the winter can also lead to an increase in cavities. Saliva acts as a buffering agent against acidic foods and drinks – and with less saliva, your teeth are less protected.  

Keep your mouth healthy 

Here are some oral health tips for any time of year:  

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day  
  • Floss once a day  
  • Get a new toothbrush every three to four months, and replace it after you’ve been sick  
  • Drink lots of water  
  • Contact your dentist with oral health questions or concerns  

See your dentist at least once a year to make sure you’re keeping up with healthy habits and to prevent damage to your teeth and gums.  

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Photo credit: Getty Images 

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