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Medications to Improve Health Could be Detrimental to Oral Health

Are you among the millions who treat or manage a range of diseases with medications? If so, you should be aware of the side effects many medications can cause that negatively affect oral health.

  • Xerostomia, known commonly as dry mouth, is listed as a side effect on more than 400 medications. Without adequate saliva flow, bacteria, plaque and the by-products they produce can accumulate in the mouth and make a person more vulnerable to gum disease and tooth decay.

  • Gingival enlargement, a condition in which the gums become swollen and begin to grow over the teeth, is a side effect of some medications. Calcium channel blockers, sometimes used to control high blood pressure and other health issues, are just one category of medications that can cause overgrowth of gums. Eventually, this overgrowth of gum tissue can cause a severe periodontal infection. Monitoring and early intervention from dental and health professionals can reduce the likelihood of gingival enlargement in at-risk patients.

  • Some oral contraceptives and blood pressure control medications have been linked to oral sores and inflammation.

  • One of the agents used in tetracycline, a medication used for acne treatment, can discolor teeth and the underlying bone.

  • A number of medications, ranging from certain antibiotics to ibuprofen, can produce lesions or ulcers in the mouth that often disappear after a patient stops taking the medication.

  • Sugary medications, such as cough drops, liquid medications and antacid tablets can leave behind a sticky residue on teeth, making them more susceptible to decay. Sugar in medications can be particularly problematic for children on long-term therapies for chronic medical conditions. Unable to swallow pills, many children receive medications in liquid form, often sweetened to make them more palatable.

  • Drugs affecting the central nervous system can negatively affect oral health. When patients experience side effects such as fatigue, lethargy and motor impairment, it becomes more difficult for them to take care of their own oral health. In fact, adults taking antidepressants and antihypertensive medications were found to have elevated levels of plaque and the clinical signs of gingivitis.

You should inform your dentist about any prescription or non-prescription drugs that you are using so they can monitor your oral health to ensure that any adverse effects are treated promptly.

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