By Dr. Arthur Mowery of Exceptional Dentistry
You may not realize it, but many common medications may be causing some pretty serious issues with your oral health. From over-the-counter drugs to prescription treatments, many of the medications you take can end up causing serious damage to your teeth, which can leave you wondering how you’re going to cope when you need the medications to stay healthy.
Certain medications can cause altered taste, dry mouth (xerostomia), oral thrush, burning mouth, tender gums, gum disease, and even tooth decay. You may experience abnormal gum bleeding, bone loss, cavities, enlarged gums, mouth sores, inflammation, and discoloration. .
For example, more than 400 medications have been proven to cause dry mouth. In my opinion, dry mouth is one of the most common and serious medication side effects. While a nuisance, dry mouth generally isn’t a major concern until you realize that it is a major contributor to gum infections and tooth decay. Saliva, a.k.a spit, not only makes your mouth feel good and helps you eat your food, but it is the main defense against dental decay. When the mouth gets dry there is nothing to rinse the acids off the teeth. When medications disrupt the delicate balance the effects can be devastating and happen rapidly.
Medications linked to dry mouth and tooth decay
Narcotic pain meds and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) have also been shown to cause tooth decay as a result of dry mouth. Temporary usage every once in a while won’t cause problems, but prolonged use of Hydrocodone, OxyContin, Tramadol, and similar pain meds have resulted in severe dental issues in patients dealing with chronic pain. To combat this, sip water throughout the day, chew sugarless gum, practice good dental hygiene, and use a moisturizing mouth spray.
Antihistamines block histamine receptors to prevent allergic reactions, but that same effect occurs elsewhere in the body, such as the mouth and tongue. Simply put, antihistamines block the release of saliva, resulting in dry mouth. Decongestants, although they work differently, are also commonly used to treat allergies and the common cold. Cough syrups in particular, offer another level of damage in that they’re highly acidic, which can lead to tooth erosion. Rinsing with water and using fluoride toothpaste after taking cough syrup can help prevent this erosion.
High Blood Pressure Medications such as Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are all commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure – and they also cause dry mouth that can increase your chances of developing tooth decay. Some drug options such as Lisinopril have shown fewer oral side effects, so if you’ve noticed tooth decay or an increase in cavities since going on blood pressure medication, ask your doctor about switching.
Antidepressant use has already been linked to bone metabolism loss for more than a decade, which can increase a person’s chances of developing rampant tooth decay, bad breath, gum disease, oral yeast infections, and other oral health concerns.
Combining any of these medications can have an exponential effect on these destructive symptoms.
Getting regular preventative dental care with enhanced professional fluoride treatments can go a long way in ensuring your medications don’t result in tooth decay and costly dental treatments. While certain medications can’t be avoided, keeping your mouth hydrated and sticking to a proper daily routine can ensure you ward off any further damage.