Published on Iowa Healthiest State Initiative on behalf of Delta Dental of Iowa

With the summer weather heating up, you may be noticing even more allergy symptoms. In fact, allergy season seems to be getting worse, starting earlier and lasting longer. With increasing CO2 emissions, plants are releasing more pollen than they used to, making your allergy symptoms even worse.

Seasonal allergies can be a pain – causing congestion, sneezing, runny nose, coughing and more. But did you know that they can also impact your oral health? During allergy season, toothaches, dry mouth, and bad breath are also common.

Tooth Pain

One of the most common allergy symptoms is congestion. As your body tries to fight off the irritants in the air, you get congested as your maxillary sinuses fill with mucus. Right beneath your maxillary sinuses are your molars. The mucus causes pressure to build up on the roots of your upper molars, resulting in tooth sensitivity to hot or cold food.

Dry Mouth

When your sinuses are congested and you can’t breathe through your nose, you’re forced to breathe through your mouth. Mouth breathing means less saliva is being produced – leading to dry mouth. Dry mouth can also be caused by antihistamines, the drug often used to treat seasonal allergies. Mouth breathing also makes it incredibly difficult for your mouth to regulate its pH. Low saliva production and unregulated acids and pH in the mouth allow for a constant flow of bacteria in your mouth, creating the perfect opportunity for cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease to take their claim. If these are left untreated, they may result in permanent damage or tooth loss.

Bad Breath

The constant flow and buildup of bacteria in your mouth from mouth breathing can also cause bad breath. Other common allergy symptoms like sore throat, infection, or postnasal drip, the excess mucus that drains down into your throat from congestion, are other causes of bad breath.

Gum and Tonsil Swelling

Postnasal drip is almost inevitable with allergies, often causing a sore throat, swollen tonsils and even swollen, sore gums. Swollen gums make it hard to brush effectively. If not treated promptly, this can lead to irritated gums, gingivitis, or gum disease. It’s also possible to develop canker sores on the inside of your mouth from dryness and soreness.

How to Improve Oral Health During Allergy Season

Luckily, there are several things you can do to improve your oral health during allergy season to reduce your chances of dealing with these side effects.

· Drink water – Water can help retain moisture in your mouth, avoid dryness, and wash away harmful bacteria. Make sure you stay hydrated!

· Gargle with Salt Water – Mix a tablespoon of salt with warm water to gargle, rinse, and spit out. This will help remove bacteria and allergens, get rid of the mucus in your sinuses, reduce pressure, and allow you to breathe out of your nose. It also is a great way to alleviate pain in your mouth or throat if irritated.

· Continue brushing and flossing – Staying consistent with brushing and flossing will help your oral health overall, including limiting the impact of seasonal allergies.

· Treat your allergies – It is crucial you are treating your allergies by following your doctor’s advice or taking some over-the-counter medication. This will limit your initial reaction to the allergies and prevent the oral health issues that would normally follow.

Here are some other tips to avoid seasonal allergies altogether:

· Keep doors and windows closed to reduce pollen and mold entering your home

· Switch out air filters seasonally

· Wash bedding and vacuum carpets and rugs regularly

· Shower and/or change your clothes after spending time outdoors

· Keep humidity levels to 40-50% in your house

Most importantly, don’t ignore the signs of allergies! Even though the pain you feel may be from allergies, it can progress and cause long-term issues. Speak with a doctor or dentist to determine the best way to treat your allergy symptoms.

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