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With the cold and flu season still upon us, it’s important to pay as much attention to daily oral care as it is to regular hand-washing and other practices. There is definitely a connection to good dental hygiene and the risk of diseases like flu and pneumonia. For example, if you suffer from chronic gum inflammation, harmful bacteria can more readily enter your bloodstream through your mouth.

Here are some simple ways you can decrease your risk of cold or flu by minding your mouth habits:

Wash your hands after eating, brushing, flossing and touching surfaces. Germs can be transferred when you touch a surface that has already been contaminated by another person with a cold, or a flu virus …then put those fingers in your mouth. Even a sink, railing or cup can transmit viruses. A hand sanitizer is as good as washing hands with soap and water because it kills bacteria.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Viruses can enter the body through these areas. This is challenging for children and adults alike.

Rinse your toothbrush. Every time you are done brushing, rinse your brush with old Toothbrush. Time to replacewater and let it dry in an upright position. If not rinsed properly, a toothbrush can be contaminated with bacteria for months, especially if you’ve been sick recently. Throw brushes away every 3-4 months. Don’t ever share a toothbrush or keep toothbrushes of family members too close to one another.

Brush and floss often. The areas on and between your teeth can breed bacteria that may cause a cold or flu.

Use an antibacterial oral rinse or mouthwash. While there are several other types of rinse products (anti-cavity, anti-tartar, etc.), antibacterial rinses or chemotherapeutic mouthwashes can prevent the spread of bacteria that can feed flu viruses and colds.

There are more than 300 species of bacteria that live in your mouth at any given time. Armed with these oral tips, you can minimize the chance of some of these bacteria turning into the flu, cold or other diseases.