What allergies mean for your oral health

It's autumn, and the leaves are turning brilliant shades of yellow and red. But the season can also kick allergies in overdrive. All that sneezing and congestion can mean trouble for your teeth. Here's how you can keep your teeth happy despite the sniffles.

Watch out for fall allergies

Around September, allergy triggers begin to flourish. Ragweed pollen, caused by a common North American shrub, is one of the main culprits. The lovely fall breeze carries the pollen for hundreds of miles, so even if ragweed plants doesn’t grow near you, they can still cause your allergies to flare up. Autumn also stirs up mold spores and dust mites, which can trigger runny noses and watery eyes.

Understand the dental side effects

Here's how hay fever can hurt your teeth:

• Dry mouth. You're more likely to breathe through your mouth when your nose is clogged up. That can dry up saliva, putting your teeth are higher risk for cavities. Saliva helps digest food, wash away food particles and neutralize acidity. Antihistamines can also contribute to dry mouth.

• Tooth pain. Feel an ache in an upper tooth? Allergies may be to blame. Sinus congestion in the cavity above the mouth can put pressure on your tooth roots, causing phantom toothache.

• Bad breath. The increase in bacteria associated with post-nasal drip, a common allergy symptom, can lead to bad breath.

What you can do

It's easy to find relief from your allergies and protect your teeth:

• Take antihistamines to keep your allergies in check. Antihistamines can reduce symptoms of runny nose and sinus congestion — and the dental effects they can cause.

• Drink more water. Proper hydration reduces the effects of dry mouth. It can also help fight congestion. If you're still having trouble with dry mouth, ask your dentist about saliva substitutes.

• Try a humidifier. Running a humidifier as you sleep can relieve the symptoms of allergies. The vapor released soothes your throat and reduces inflammation.

And if you have any concerns about your allergies or dental health, don't hesitate to reach out to your physician and dentist.