Spring is here in most of the United States, and along with all the birdsong, sunny days, and greenery comes another iteration of allergy season. Estimates vary, but somewhere between 9 and 10% of Americans suffer from some version of seasonal allergies, which in turn have a variety of causes and triggers. Further complicating this, allergies can change as we age, coming and going as the years pass by. So what does this have to do with our oral health? Well as it turns out allergies and oral health do interact, often in perhaps surprising ways. So what do you need to know about allergies and oral health?

Seasonal Allergies and Oral Health

Seasonal allergies are perhaps the most prominent allergies during the spring of the year, so let’s start there. Seasonal allergies often manifest via our respiratory system, with symptoms like sneezing, stuffy nose, irritated sinuses, irritated eyes, and the like abounding. What may be surprising is the way in which these symptoms interact with oral health and well-being.

To start with, sinus issues may lead to tooth pain and might be mistaken for a cavity or other oral health issue. This stems from the physical proximity of the sinuses and the teeth in the upper jaw, and the interaction that leads to. Swelling or inflamed sinuses can put pressure on the tissues around them, and one of the results may be tooth pain which isn’t the result of an issue with the tooth itself. While you should always consult your dentist about persistent tooth pain, telling them about your sinus or allergy issues may be helpful as well.

Another side effect of the congestion caused by allergies may be dry mouth, particularly at night if the nose becomes congested and difficult to breathe through.  Dry mouth can have a number of negative effects on our oral health, including cavities and gum disease. Both of those problems may result in permanent damage or even tooth loss if left untreated, so if dry mouth becomes an issue taking steps to treat it may be helpful.

Sore throat, from dry mouth, sinus drip, or infection, can also lead to halitosis–more commonly referred to as bad breath. This can be irritating or embarrassing, and may not respond to tooth brushing or cleaning. Your dentist may refer you to your primary care physician in order to address the issue.

Dealing with Seasonal Allergies and Oral Health Issues

So what can you do to help mitigate the impact that your allergies may be having on your oral health? There are a number of steps that you can take in order to soften the impact of seasonal allergies on your teeth and gums:

  • The first step is, of course, maintaining a good brushing and flossing routine along with a healthy diet. This will ensure that your teeth have a strong and healthy foundation for overall health and help limit the impact that seasonal allergies have on them.
  • Staying hydrated helps mitigate dry mouth, and promote overall oral health by keeping the body healthy and resilient. Especially as the weather warms up and we all spend more time outside, drinking enough water can help with both allergies and oral health.
  • Gargling with salt water is a great way to promote oral health during seasonal allergies. Dissolving a tablespoon of salt into a glass of warm water, and then gargle, rinse, and spit it out until the glass is empty. This can help in a number of ways: by removing bacteria and allergens, drawing mucus out of the sinuses, and clearing debris away from the mouth. This all serves to reduce your allergy symptoms.
  • Finally: treat your allergies. This may involve following your doctor’s advice, or just taking the right over-the-counter medications. Avoiding or limiting contact with your known allergy triggers is another key step. By treating your allergies you’ll also be treating your related oral health issues as well.

As you follow these steps, it’s also important to consult with your dentist about any impact your allergies may be having on your oral health. Spring may be the right time for an exam and cleaning, during which you and your dentist can discuss the role your allergies play in your oral health. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and prevention in this case in part means making a visit to your dentist’s office during allergy season.