How an Upper Respiratory Infection Can Cause Gum Problems

If you have a cold or other upper respiratory infection, you may experience nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, and postnasal drip. Upper respiratory infections such as those of the sinuses can be resistant to treatment and therefore linger for a long time. Because of this, you may be prone to infection-related gum problems such as gingivitis that will need to be treated by your dentist. Here are some ways your upper respiratory infection can cause gum problems and what you can do about them:

Bacteria-Rich Mucus 

Postnasal drip is a common symptom of an upper respiratory infection. If your infection is bacterial in nature, as opposed to viral, the mucus that slips down your throat during a postnasal drip episode may contaminate your gums with infection-causing bacteria.

When gums are constantly exposed to bacteria-rich mucus, they may become red and swollen and may bleed easily. To reduce this risk, try inhaling steam, as this helps clear up nasal congestion so that you can blow your nose.

Also, an over-the-counter decongestant will help open up your swollen sinus passages so that mucus will drain out of the front of your nose instead of flowing down your throat. If your mucus is thick and discolored, see your physician because you may need some antibiotics. When your upper respiratory infection resolves, your risk for gingivitis may decrease as well.

Mouth Breathing

Because upper respiratory infections typically cause nasal congestion, you may be unable to breathe out of your nose. Because of this, you may mouth-breathe, causing your mouth your dry out.

Long-term oral dryness can predispose you to gum infections because when there is inadequate saliva in your mouth to wash away bacteria, it will build up in your oral cavity and on your gum tissue.

If you have nasal congestion that limits your ability to breathe out of your nose, drink plenty of fluids. This will help diminish swollen nasal passages, thin out your nasal secretions, and encourage salivary flow so that oral microorganisms can be washed away. 

If you have a lingering upper respiratory infection that has affected your gums, see both your physician and dentist. The sooner you seek treatment for these disorders, the less likely you will be to develop complications such as a secondary infection of the throat or lungs or a severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis that may be related to untreated gingivitis.