Common Cold and Oral Health – What is the Connection?

The common cold is a viral infectious disease that primarily affects your nose. You may experience symptoms like a stuffy nose, mucus discharge, sore throat, fever or cough. It can spread rapidly from person-to-person.

The common cold and its remedies have an impact on oral health. Sore throat is a common symptom of Common cold.


Also, you may experience toothache or have bad breath during cold. These symptoms suggest that you are suffering from acute sinusitis.

The cold medications that contain alcohol may cause dryness of the mouth. Cough drops or syrups increase the risk of getting tooth decay because of the high sugar content.

What is Common cold?

The common cold is an infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract. It is caused due to a group of viruses called rhinovirus and is contagious.

It primarily affects the nose. However, the larynx, throat, and sinuses may also be affected.

It is medically referred by a number of terms like acute viral nasopharyngitis, nasopharyngitis, rhinopharyngitis, viral rhinitis, and acute coryza.

Symptoms of Common cold

Symptoms of a common cold usually develop 1-3 days after being attacked by a common cold virus. Common cold typically lasts up to 10 days.

However, some symptoms can prevail for as long as 3 weeks. Signs and symptoms, which can vary in every individual, include the following –

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Dry throat
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Slight body ache
  • Sneezing
  • Headache
  • Mild fever
  • Feeling tired
  • Hoarse voice

The connection between Common cold and oral health

When you are suffering from a cold, you might feel discomfort in your oral cavity. Medicines, such as cough syrups or throat lozenges, are designed to help relieve symptoms of the common cold.

But these medicines tend to come with hidden threats that can affect your oral health. The ingredients in many popular over-the-counter medications can lead to cavities in your teeth.

Tooth pain

It is common to have pain in your upper back teeth when you’re suffering from common cold.

This is due to the sinus infection. The largest sinus cavity in your face is present right above upper back teeth on both sides.

Due to a cold, the sinus may get infected and filled with a fluid. This condition is called acute sinusitis. This fluid pressure can push down on the roots of your teeth, causing a toothache.

Tooth decay

Sugar is added to many medicines to make them taste not so bitter. Cough drops and throat lozenges contain a lot of sugar.

They dissolve slowly and thus, stay in contact with the teeth for a long time. The sugar-coated teeth are nothing but feeding ground for bacteria. When bacteria feed on sugars, they form acids which can cause tooth decay.

Also, people consume more hot tea or citric juices that can also result in enamel erosion.

Dry mouth

A healthy mouth produces enough saliva to keep it moist all day. Saliva helps in rinsing away and neutralizing the sugary-acids that can cause tooth decay.

But cough syrups contain alcohol which can substantially decrease the production of saliva. Also, nasal decongestants and antihistamines can cause dry mouth.

When your nose is blocked, you tend to breathe through your mouth. This can also result in dry mouth. A dry mouth is an ideal place for cavity-causing bacteria to produce acids that can eat away your tooth enamel.

Bad breath

You may experience bad breath problem while you suffer from common cold. Halitosis or bad breath during common cold happens due to post nasal drip.

Post nasal drip is excess mucus that leaks from the back of your nose into your mouth. Excess mucus creates an environment for bacteria to multiply and results in bad odor or bad breath.

Sore throat

A sore throat is a very common symptom of the common cold. It makes difficult to swallow food or fluids.

Treatment of Common cold

There is no cure for the common cold as all treatment modalities are directed at relieving the symptoms. Also, these treatments will not prevent or shorten the duration of the common cold.


Over-the-counter medications

  1. Throat lozenges, throat sprays, nasal sprays, nasal drops, cough drops, and cough syrups may help relieve symptoms.
  2. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol, Panadol), Aspirin (Bayer, Ecotrin) or Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can be taken to relieve headache, sore throat or fever.
  3. Decongestant drugs such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or antihistamines are very effective for congestion.
  4. Sometimes, cough medicines or antitussives can be a savior if your cough is keeping you awake at night or interfering with your daytime activities. A common antitussive is dextromethorphan.

Home remedies

  1. Inhaling steam helps alleviate the symptoms of nasal congestion.
  2. Chicken soup, bone broth or similar warm fluids can be comforting.
  3. Drink plenty of water.
  4. A saltwater gargle can help relieve a sore throat.
  5. To help relieve nasal congestion, try saline nasal drops. You can buy these drops over-the-counter.
  6. Vitamin C, zinc, echinacea extracts, and other herbal remedies are some alternative treatment options that are believed to prevent or treat the common cold. (1)

How to care for your mouth while treating your cold?

  1. Take your medicine with food. While eating, your saliva production increases which can help rinse out any harmful sugary-acids.
  2. Do not take your medicines right before bed. The sugary-acids will stay on your teeth overnight.
  3. Brush your teeth after taking your medicines.
  4. Take a pill form or gel capsule form of medicine instead of syrups. This will reduce the chance of medicine coming in contact with your teeth.
  5. Choose sugar-free cough drops.
  6. Drink plenty of fluids. Water, fresh juice, clear broth or warm lemon water are excellent choices. Do not take caffeine or alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
  7. Adjust your room’s temperature and humidity. Keep your room temperature warm. Do not overheat. If the air is dry, set up a humidifier that can moisten the air and help loosen congestion. Clean the humidifier periodically to prevent the growth of bacteria.
  8. If you desire to consume hot tea to soothe yourself, do not add sugar to it. Consider drinking it with a straw.
  9. A saltwater gargle can help relieve an itchy or sore throat. Dissolve half a teaspoon of table salt in a glass of warm water.
  10. Apply warm compresses over your sinus areas to relieve toothache.
  11. Steam inhalation will help drain your sinuses and relieve you of your heavy-headedness.

Final words

There is a strong connection between the common cold and your oral health. Sometimes, treatment modalities that are directed to ease out common cold symptoms might cause oral issues such as toothache, tooth decay, dry mouth, etc.

Also, you might experience other oral problems, such as sore throat, bad breath, etc., during the common cold.

If it is possible, go for home remedies for the common cold as you can avoid medications that contain high sugar content and alcohol.


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