How Medications Affect Your Oral Health

Medications and oral health

Oral Side Effects of Medications and Supplements

If you’re like most adults in the US, you probably take some sort of daily medication or supplement. It might be prescription medication for treating a medical condition or store-bought vitamin and mineral supplements to boost your health. But do you know how these medications or supplements could affect your oral health?

The mouth and body share a strong connection. What happens with your oral health impacts your physical health, and vice versa. However, this connection can become complicated when necessary medications or supplements lead to oral health trouble.

Dry mouth is the most common side effect.

The most common side effect of many medications and supplements is xerostomia or chronic dry mouth.

Xerostomia often develops slowly, and many people take it as a sign that they just need to drink more water before realizing their mouth always seems sticky and dry no matter what they do. Chronic dry mouth is uncomfortable to live with and drastically increases your risk of developing oral disease.

Saliva plays a crucial role in your oral health. It keeps your teeth clean by naturally rinsing the surface of your enamel and helps keep the soft tissues in your mouth hydrated. When saliva production diminishes, plaque can build up much more quickly, and harmful bacteria will flourish. Excessive plaque buildup and dry, irritated gum tissue eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Hundreds of medications and supplements have xerostomia as a side effect. The most frequent offenders include:

  • Antihistamines.
  • Decongestants.
  • Heart medications.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Seizure medication.
  • Chemotherapy medication.
  • Immunosuppressive medications.

If you’ve noticed that your mouth feels dry or sticky, or an unusual amount of plaque buildup was found during your recent hygiene visit, your medication could be to blame.

4 Other Ways Medications Impact Oral Health

Dry mouth aside, there are several other ways medications or supplements can wreak havoc on your smile. Here are 4 symptoms you might experience after starting a new medicine or after taking the same meditation for an extended period.

1. Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums is a classic sign of gum disease, but sometimes the cause isn’t necessarily plaque buildup. Medications that affect blood clotting can make it very easy for your gums to bleed. Aspirin and anticoagulants are common culprits, and you should always inform your dentist if you are taking these medications. 

2. Enamel Damage or Decay

Enamel damage and subsequent decay vulnerability can be caused by medications directly touching the teeth. For example, chewing aspirin is something that you can do in an urgent situation, but making it a habit can cause damage to your teeth due to the acidity of the medication. Certain asthma medications can also do this.

3. Oral Sores or Ulcers

Oral ulcers can be painful and potentially increase your risk of developing oral cancer in the soft tissues of your mouth and throat. A significant number of chemotherapy medications, aspirin, penicillin, and sulfa drugs have been linked to oral ulcers and canker sores.

4. Metallic Taste

This unpleasant side effect may not directly impact your oral health, but it can present alongside other symptoms. Antihistamines, antibiotics, antifungal medications, blood pressure medications, diabetic medications, muscle relaxers, thyroid medication, and nicotine patches have all been known to cause a metallic or generally bad taste in the mouth.

How to limit oral side effects of medication.

So, what can you do to protect your oral health from these side effects? Here are our top tips!

  • Start practicing superb dental care habits at home right away. Minimum recommendations are to brush twice a day for two minutes and floss daily, but you can do more if you have a higher risk for plaque development.
  • Clean your teeth and rinse your mouth after taking chewable or syrup medications.
  • Ask your dentist for professional product recommendations to fight against dry mouth, gingivitis, gum disease, or plaque. They’ll be able to provide you with products that offer more oomph than store-bought options.
  • Eat as healthy a diet as possible, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and minimal sugar or processed foods.
  • Discuss medication changes with your primary care practitioner, or seek a second opinion if you’re unhappy.

Your oral health is extremely important to your overall health. Sometimes there’s no other option but to stick with your current medication, but if there’s a possibility you could change the medicine and alleviate the side effects, this is worth pursuing with your primary care practitioner’s guidance. Never stop taking a prescription medication or necessary supplement without your doctor’s approval.

Always keep your dentist informed of any medications and supplements.

Every healthcare provider should have an updated record of your medications and supplements, especially your dentist!

During every checkup, you’ll notice that either your dentist or one of their assistants will ask you about any medical or health changes since your last visit. If you’re taking a new medication, have changed your vitamin supplement, or have stopped taking a medication, be sure to let them know.

With this information, your dentist will be fully informed of your overall health and use this knowledge to tailor your preventive care plan to fit your needs. For example, if you’re taking a medication known for causing dry mouth or enamel damage, they can provide you with professional products to fight these side effects.

Farless Dental Group is experienced in balancing your oral and overall health. 

If you’ve been experiencing dry mouth or other oral side effects, Farless Dental Group can provide the care you need to protect your smile. Book a visit with our family dental practice in Greensboro, NC, today.