Are Your Medications Causing Cavities?

More than 500 prescription medications are known to increase your risk of dry mouth symptoms, which can, in turn, lead to an increase in tooth decay.

A mind-boggling 500 types of medications can cause dry mouth syndrome. So, how do you keep you teeth healthy if you’re taking one of the prescription meds on the list? Here’s what you need to know about dry mouth and what you and your Harker Heights dentist can do to minimize the side effects of your meds and protect your smile.

Dry Mouth Risks

Dry mouth (also called xerostomia) is not a life-threatening issue, but if it persists it can lead to tooth decay. When there is not enough saliva in your mouth, plaque on your teeth is not washed away and your gum tissue gets dry, increasing the risk of cavities and weakened teeth that can crack or fracture.

Medications That Can Cause Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications prescribed to treat a wide variety of conditions, from cancer to the common cold. This includes antidepressants, painkillers, and antibiotics in five broad categories:

  • ADHD medications. Amphetamines can cause dehydration which decreases the production of saliva, and ultimately, can also increase your risk of gum disease.
  • Antacids. Many antacids, especially the chewable kind, can contribute to tooth decay, not only by causing dry mouth but also by delivering sugar and artificial sweeteners.
  • Antidepressants. Certain antidepressants not only cause dry mouth but also have negative effects on bone health in general. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants in particular are known to cause dry mouth.
  • Antihistamines and decongestants. Antihistamines, which block histamine receptors to prevent allergic reactions, also block the release of saliva. The same goes for decongestants taken to treat colds and allergies.
  • Blood pressure medication. Many commonly prescribed medications designed to treat high blood pressure can cause dry mouth: enzyme inhibitors, beta and calcium channel blockers, heart rhythmic medications, and diuretics.
  • Painkillers. Opioids, many medications prescribed for chronic pain, and even aspirin can cause patients to experience dry mouth as a side effect.

Why It’s Important to Tell Your Dentist

Dealing with dry mouth as a side effect of taking your meds is tricky and must be approached with care. In most cases, it’s not viable or even safe for patients to stop taking medications that might be saving their lives. Taking your meds, especially to treat serious conditions, must be prioritized. It’s important to let the dentist know as soon as you can if you’re taking any medications or having dry mouth symptoms. Doing so will give your dentist a chance to accurately assess your dental health and help minimize the risk of this side effect as well as your discomfort. Your dentist can tell you whether your medication might increase the likelihood of dry mouth, and keep you informed about your maintenance options while you’re taking the medication. Some of those same medications might also affect your dental treatments, so this is more of a reason to disclose your health and medication history to your family dentist.

What Your Dentist Can Do

During your dental consultation and exam, we can discuss the medications you are taking, whether there are any signs and symptoms of dry mouth and tooth decay, and how to minimize the risk of developing cavities. The sooner we discuss the risks, the better informed you will be. One of the first steps to help control the symptoms is a regular cleaning to remove plaque. We can discuss other non-invasive treatments to help relieve the discomfort and minimize the risk of developing tooth decay.

What You Can Do

Provided you stick to your regular oral hygiene routine of brushing, flossing, and regular checkups, you can keep the issue of dry mouth in check while you are on medication. There are a few other things you could do, also, including:

  • Staying hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Using a moisturizing mouth spray or mouth rinse
  • Not smoking
  • Cutting back on dehydrating substances such as coffee, tea, and alcohol
  • Eating a balanced, healthy diet including plenty of vegetables.

We can help you keep an eye on your oral health and keep your dry mouth condition in check. Contact us at (254) 863-8003 with questions about our dental services or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Katende.

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