Winter raises the risk of many health problems, from colds and flu to chronically dry skin. Many people do not realise that chilly winter weather also has a negative effect on oral health. This list contains five oral health problems that are common in winter, along with some practical steps you can take to protect yourself this season.
1. Dry Mouth
Cold, dry weather can cause your mouth to dry out. In addition, many people spend a lot of time indoors in winter with the heating system blowing hot air. The air in heated indoor environments can become very dry, which can lead to your oral tissues drying out. You can reduce the risk of dry mouth by sipping water or non-caffeinated hot drinks, or use a humidifier to increase the moisture content of the air in your home.
2. Canker Sores
When your mouth is dry, canker sores are more likely. If you develop these painful sores during winter, try swishing warm salt water around your mouth. This soothing solution has a mild antiseptic effect and can provide relief from pain. You can also use over-the-counter pain medications to reduce discomfort.
3. Cold Sores
Unlike canker sores, which affect the tissues inside the mouth, cold sores form on the lips and the skin around them. Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus. Once this virus infects the body, it can remain dormant for many years. Cold weather can trigger the virus to reactivate and cause a cold sore. Avoid spreading the virus to other people by not sharing cosmetics and avoiding kissing while you have a cold sore.
4. Chapped Lips
Cold weather dries out the lips, leading them to flake and crack. Coat your lips with petroleum jelly or lip balm to keep them moist. If you plan on enjoying winter sports, always use a lip balm with sun protection factor (SPF) to prevent sunburn. Even if the sun's rays do not feel warm, the light reflecting off the snow can sometimes be enough to burn sensitive parts of the skin, such as the lips.
5. Sensitive Teeth
Some people have sensitive teeth that feel painful when exposed to hot or cold. When walking or jogging outside, the cold air that passes over your teeth can trigger pain if you suffer from sensitive teeth. Using a desensitising toothpaste can reduce the effects of cold air on teeth if you use it every day. Talk with a dentist if your teeth feel particularly sensitive.