In General Dentistry

With cold and flu season in full swing, many people are making use of the wide variety of medications on the market to help them get through their day. Each and every product available warns the users against driving if they feel drowsy and lists information explaining what to do if they feel certain symptoms. As a whole, people feel pretty comfortable taking these medications and are confident that they know and understand the effects. One area that many people overlook, however, is how these medications affect their teeth and gums. While these effects are a concern, people can still use medication without sacrificing their smile if they become just a little more knowledgeable about the medications they take.

Potential Problems

The first step in maintaining good oral health while taking medication is learning about how teeth and gums are at risk when certain medications are used.

Medication and Erosion of Tooth Enamel

Some medications are highly acidic and can cause damage to tooth enamel, especially when the medication comes in direct contact with the teeth. Aspirin, for example, should be swallowed whole with water. However, some people choose to chew them up before swallowing them. Chewing them is more risky to tooth enamel than swallowing with water because the medication is coming in direct contact with the teeth when chewed. Some asthma medications are also highly acidic.

Medication and Tooth Decay

While the taste is off-putting, many cough syrups contain a lot of sugar. Many people do not immediately think of brushing their teeth after taking cough medicine, but failing to do so can cause the sugar to sit on the teeth and start the decaying process.

Does Medication Cause Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth may not seem like a serious side effect but since one of saliva’s jobs is to protect the teeth, having a lack of saliva puts teeth at risk. In addition, dry mouth can cause throat irritation, difficulty swallowing and dry nasal passages. Antihistamines and chemotherapy medications are common culprits of causing dry mouth.

Prevention

Of course one of the most effective ways to prevent mouth problems caused by medication is to simply stop taking the medication altogether. However, this is not a realistic expectation, especially with medications that are needed to maintain health. Luckily, there are other ways that are just as effective.

Chew Sugar-Free Gum

Chewing a piece of gum is a good way to prevent dry mouth as it encourages the mouth to produce saliva. Be sure to choose a sugar-free gum to prevent cavities and other problems caused by exposure to too much sugar.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly

Visiting the dentist is an important part of oral hygiene all the time but it is especially important to visit or maintain contact with your dentist when you are taking medication. Be sure to tell the dentist what medications you take regularly when you go in for check ups and give the dentist a call when you begin taking a new medication. Not only can they closely monitor your oral health but they can suggest alternatives and care procedures to keep your mouth in optimal health.

Maintain a Brushing and Flossing Routine

Everyone knows the importance of brushing twice a day and flossing daily. However, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure to brush your teeth after taking a medication that contains sugar or a high amount of acid. Taking these harmful substances off of your teeth sooner than later can prevent them from causing significant damage.

Repair

If you find yourself experiencing tooth or mouth discomfort while taking medication or shortly after, you may be experiencing a side effect or damage from the medication. If this occurs, be sure to make a visit to your dentist a priority. The dentist will be able to assess the damage and treat it before it gets out of hand.

Sometimes medication can be more trouble than it is worth due to all of the potential side effects. However, taking precautions, educating yourself about medications and their side effects, and keeping in good communication with your dentist can help teeth and mouth problems be avoided. Contact us this cold and flu season to keep your mouth healthy and happy!

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