What cough drop should I use?

What cough drop should I use?

It’s getting to be that time of the year again. The holiday spirit is rising but temperatures are dropping and noses are sniffling. Yes, I am talking about cold season.

Cold season is upon us and that means millions of people will be reaching for a cough drop to soothe their achy throats. But there’s something we don’t often think about when it comes to cough drops. Coughdrops are actually, pretty much just candy.

And as your dental hygienists, you know, we can’t really recommend munching on candy, day in and day out. But, we get colds too, so we definitely get it.

Let’s consider our options.

  1. Sugar
  2. Arificially Sweetened
  3. Herbal
  4. Xylitol

The first is the obvious one – sweetened with sugar. Bad for obvious reasons. But it’s important to note how it’s bad.

When it comes to sugar, it’s important to remember that frequency is a bigger factor than quantity. So when it comes to soothing your throat with cough drops, that becomes a really big factor.

Typically, you won’t get over your sickness in just one day. And definitely not in the time it takes for one cough drop to dissolve. In fact, in one single day, it’s easy to actually lose track of how many pieces you go through.

It takes your mouth at least 30-45 minutes for it to recover to a normal state.  So, if you’re serially dissolving cough drops, one after another, then your mouth never really recovers. This creates a ripe environment for cavities.

But the next option comes with its own set of cons. Most sugar-free cough drops are sweetened with Aspartame. So, that’s not an option for many, as plenty of evidence is out there on the negative side effects of consuming this chemical.

What about herbal cough drops? Sounds healthier, right? Well. Might just be good marketing.

Herbal cough drops are often sweetened with honey. Honey is basically just sugar. Fructose, to be precise. And all sugars create the right environment for bacteria to grow in your mouth.

So what is one to do? Well, there’s no 100% clear answer here if these are our only options. I’d say if you’re going to go to sleep with one in your cheek, it’s probably better to choose the sugar-free version, even if it is sweetened with Aspartame.

But, these are not our only options. Xylitol cough drops are sweetened with a naturally derived sweetener that actually also fights cavities. This is the same sweetener found in the popular candy (with my kids) called, Ice Chips. It tastes great, fights cavities, and is all natural. So, that’s definitely my recommendation.

But Xylitol cough drops aren’t cheap. And they can be hard to find (see photo left).

I’ve seen Xylitol cough drops that can go for around $5-$7 for a 30 ct. bag. So, while I might make the case that the value of protecting the health of your teeth outweighs the higher cost there, I totally understand that this just might not be an option.

If that’s the case, if you can limit the frequency of use during the day, go with Herbal but brush more while using the drops.

And if you’re not near a toothbrush, you can get your mouth back to balance and naturally fighting cavities by simply drinking water. Yes! It’s as simple as that!  Drink some water after a cough drop to send your mouth back to a stable environment.  Rinse and repeat if you are going to use multiple cough drops.

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