Does Your Medication Hurt Oral Health?

Does Your Medication Hurt Oral Health?

The great news about dental health is that so much of what makes up a fabulous smile is within our control: brushing, flossing, and regular visits to your Portland dentist, Dr. Beadnell. But there are some variables that we have less control over, and medications are one of them.

Many of us take medications– for blood pressure or cholesterol, for instance. But we might not know that those medications can conflict with dental health by creating an environment more susceptible to cavities.

The primary cause: dry mouth

One drawback to otherwise helpful and potentially life-saving medications is that most don’t simply solve the problem; medications can affect your entire body. Some medications increase sensitivity to the sun, others may cause drowsiness. And some, unfortunately for your oral health, cause dry mouth.

Why is dry mouth such a problem? To understand this, we need to examine the role saliva plays in oral health…

Saliva is a rockstar.

Saliva is actually an amazing substance. It lubricates and washes our mouths, helps with tasting and eating, and– it prevents cavities.

Cavities happen when the acid produced by bacteria demineralizes your dental enamel and breaks it down. Acidic foods or drinks (like soft drinks, which are highly acidic) can also contribute to the demineralization of dental enamel.

Everyone has bacteria in their mouths, producing acid. But fortunately, we all also have this great substance called saliva, which provides the minerals and ions necessary to rebuild the damaged enamel right after bacterial acid has made a dent in it. Ideally, with proper oral hygiene, diet, and visits to your Portland dentist, the damage done by bacteria would always be mitigated by saliva.

But how to maintain great oral health if saliva isn’t there?

That’s the question many healthcare professionals are working to address when it comes to the dry-mouth side effects of some medications. We all know that medications can be necessary and an important part of healthcare, but we want oral health to thrive as well.

Researchers at the Salivary Dysfunction Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center recently looked into clonidine, a common drug prescribed to treat high blood pressure. Clonidine is also increasingly prescribed to treat ADHD in children, and dry mouth is a commonly reported side effect.

In their study scientists found that rat models were 84% more likely to experience cavities if also given clonidine.

Steps you can take

This still leaves dental health professionals with the question of what to do when patients are taking a critical medication that also puts their oral health in jeopardy. For patients experiencing medication-related dry mouth, there are some potential ways to tackle the problem.

  • Patient awareness is the first step– many people are unaware of the dental side effects of their medications! Find out if your medication has a side effect like dry mouth that may impact your dental health.
  • Speak with your prescribing physician to see if there is another medication without the dry-mouth side effects.
  • Inform your Portland dentist about your medication, and stay up-to-date on checkups so she can monitor the health of your mouth closely.

Other steps that may be helpful:

  • Stay vigilant about brushing and flossing
  • Avoid snacking as much as possible
  • Drink lots of water
  • Use a mouthwash with fluoride
  • In some cases, a doctor or dentist may recommend fluoride gels to help rebuild enamel

Most importantly, if you are taking a medication that could impact the health of your mouth, speak with Dr. Beadnell about it at your appointment. Our job at Beadnell Family Dentistry is to work with you to support your best health!


Photo Credit: frankieleon via Compfight cc

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