It’s the end of December and, for many of us, the weather outside is starting to feel frightful. Harsh winter elements such as dry air and high winds can have a negative effect on your oral hygiene. Here are five ways winter months can affect your oral health and how to prevent it.

​1. Chapped Lips

Harsh winds and freezing temperatures can wear on skin and cause the lips to chap, crack and dry out. Counter this by frequently applying chapstick with an SPF or petroleum jelly (for really dry mouths) several times a day.

​2. Dry Mouth

When your salivary glands are unable to produce saliva this is referred to by dentists as dry mouth. Similarly, when you have a cold, your nasal passages close, leaving you with one remaining airway that tends to feel drier than usual. Additionally, when breathing in and out of your mouth in cold, dry weather, the process of dehydration speeds up and inhibits your mouth’s ability to fight bacterial infection. Anything to add moisture like sipping water or chewing sugarless gum are recommended.

​3. Cold Sores

Cold weather makes for a hospitable cold sore growing environment. Also, the body’s prone to inflammation in colder weather, so keeping the skin around your mouth moisturized and protected by wearing chapstick is beneficial. Additionally, not only is hand-washing key in protecting yourself against the common cold, bacteria and viruses, it will help to protect against cold sores too. Side not (and not oral health related), use lotion often when washing your hands in winter months.

​4. Cavities

Lots of sugary, indulgent temptations happen during the winter season such as holidays and celebrations like Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day. Being extra mindful to brush and floss during this time of year will held get rid of excess sugars and plaque on the surface of teeth and reducing your likelihood of getting a cavity.

​5. Tooth Sensitivity

Moving from warm temperatures to colder temperatures add pressure to the nerves beneath the tooth’s surface. If going outside, place a layer of clothing such as a scarf over your mouth acting as a barrier to the colder weather. Dentists often recommend brushing your teeth with a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth.

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