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Some Medications Can Affect Oral Health

Did you know that hundreds of prescription medications can cause oral side effects? The most common side effect is dry mouth, which can be brought on by more than 400 different drugs. Dry mouth raises the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Other common oral side effects include the overgrowth of yeast or other microbes, mouth sores, growth of excessive gum tissue, changes in taste, and staining of teeth. For example, tetracycline can stain teeth when it’s taken in early childhood. The oral effects of medications are a particular problem for older adults, because they tend to take the most medication.

Here are some of the medications that can cause oral side effects. If you experience any of these effects, talk with your doctor.

Oral Side Effects of Medications

Side Effect


Dry mouth

Tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics, anti-anxiety drugs, anticonvulsants, barbiturates, decongestants, muscle relaxants, bronchodilators, narcotic painkillers, and many others

Staining of teeth

Tranquilizers, oral contraceptives, antimalarial drugs, tetracycline (taken in early childhood when the teeth are developing), chlorhexidine

Overgrowth of gum tissue

Cyclosporine, calcium-channel blockers, antiseizure medication

Oral yeast infection (thrush)

Combinations of antibiotics and steroid drugs

Death of bone tissue

Bisphosphonates used intravenously in cancer treatment and, less frequently, oral bisphosphonates for osteoporosis prevention and treatment


Source: Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums. Copyright © by Harvard University. All rights reserved.

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