Article at a Glance
- Many over the counter and prescription medications can affect your oral health.
- Medications can cause dry mouth, leave you susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease, or cause mouth ulcers.
- If you’re concerned about the effect of your medications on your teeth, speak with your physician and your dentist to manage the side effects.
Modern medicine can cure or at least alleviate the symptoms of most medical and psychological conditions. However, the medications also tend to come with lists of potential side effects. In many cases, oral health can be compromised. How do you know if your teeth are at risk and what can you do about?
Do Medications Affect Teeth?
Most Americans take some type of medication to treat physical or psychological conditions. Though the medicine may be necessary to help you function, it could also be damaging to your oral health.
Medications that affect teeth can be purchased over the counter, like aspirin, or prescribed by a physician, like high blood pressure medicine. In fact, you have probably taken one of these medications at some point in your life without knowing it.
Prescription drug side effects should be listed on the information you receive when you pick up your medication. If you aren’t already aware of the potential side effects, it’s a good idea to review them, so you aren’t blindsided. You should also notify your dentist of any medications you take.
How to Deal with Dry Mouth Caused by Medication
Dry mouth may not seem like a big issue because it generally doesn’t cause discomfort, but it makes you more susceptible to tooth decay. Saliva is important to your oral health. When your body doesn’t produce enough saliva, bacteria and plaque are left to accumulate and wreak havoc on your teeth and gums.
There are several medications that cause dry mouth including antidepressants, antihistamines, asthma inhalers, diuretics, anti-anxiety medications, anticonvulsants, decongestants, muscle relaxants, and narcotic painkillers. These medications can alleviate symptoms of difficult and complicated medical conditions, so stopping treatment is not an option, but there are steps you can take to prevent damage from dry mouth.
To treat dry mouth, be sure to drink plenty of water. You may have to increase your water intake to account for the effects of your medication. Limiting caffeine, alcohol, and sugar consumption can also help. You can also suck on sugarless candies or chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
Tips for Preserving Your Teeth Without Stopping Medications
You may be surprised to know that cough drops, vitamins, antacids, and liquid medications (including cough syrups) are often sweetened with sugar to make them easier to take. Unfortunately, this means they leave a sticky residue on your teeth.
Not only do some medications leave you susceptible to tooth decay, they can stain tooth enamel or weaken your teeth and bones. Antihistamines, antipsychotic drugs, high blood pressure drugs, and some antibiotics are known to stain enamel. Other drugs, including antacids, steroids, anti-seizure medications, and antidepressants can contribute to bone loss.
To protect your teeth without losing the benefits of your medications, be sure to brush your teeth after every dose. You should also speak with your doctor to discuss options for preventing bone loss if it’s listed as a potential side effect of your medication.
Protecting the Soft Tissues of Your Mouth
Even the soft tissues of your mouth can be affected by your medications. Though the effects on your gums and tongue are not usually life-threatening, they can be uncomfortable. Many of these conditions are common and easily treated, but it’s important to address them to prevent bigger problems.
- You may see an overgrowth of gum tissue from anti-seizure medications, immunosuppressants, and calcium channel blockers.
- Mouth ulcers can be caused by aspirin, ibuprofen, beta blockers, nicorandil, penicillin, and some chemotherapy drugs.
- Thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth, can result from taking antibiotics, some birth control pills, and corticosteroids.
Medications and Your Oral Health
For the most part, medications are helpful and allow us to function at our best. Discuss your medication list and any concerns with your dentist and physician. With proper oral care, there’s no reason you can’t preserve your oral health while taking these medications. Make sure you see your dentist regularly they can monitor your oral health and address any potential issues early.
If you’re due for a follow-up or concerned that your medications may be affecting your teeth and gums, the Jefferson Dental Care team can help. Contact the clinic nearest you to make an appointment.
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