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How Do Medications Affect Our Oral Health?

Oral Health

How Do Medications Affect Our Oral Health?

Mar 6 • medications & Oral Health

Medical capsules and white pills are on hand

How do medications affect our oral health? The status of our teeth and gums can depend on many factors. What we eat and how we care for our teeth are important factors. However, some people don’t think about how the medications they take affect their mouth. 

Prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins can all affect oral health. Many medications for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, have side effects that people are not always aware of. 

Many of the common adverse effects of medication are dry mouth, abnormal bleeding of the gums, gingival enlargement, and soft tissue reactions. The good news is that you can combat these side effects with help from your dentist. By informing your dentist of your medical history as well as discussing the medications you are using, you can help avoid common issues. You can also do your part by engaging in daily oral hygiene practices and seeing your dentist on a regular basis for cleanings and prevention

If you are taking medications, here’s a look at some oral health conditions you may experience and how you can combat them. 

Common Oral Health Issues

Some common conditions associated with medication use include the following:

  • Dry mouth.  Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, occurs when the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva. This can increase the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections. Saliva is necessary to neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and wash away food particles, protecting teeth and gums. Dry mouth is a common side effect of medications. This is especially true for medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and some pain medications. 
  • Gum overgrowth. Some medications, such as anticonvulsants, immunosuppressants, and calcium channel blockers, can cause overgrowth of gum tissue, leading to gingival hyperplasia (also known as gingival hyperplasia). This condition can make it difficult to keep the gums clean, increasing the risk of gum disease and other oral health problems.
  • Increased risk of bleeding. Certain medications, such as blood thinners and antiplatelet drugs, can increase the risk of bleeding gums and other oral bleeding problems during dental procedures or when brushing and flossing.
  • Oral candidiasis. Antibiotics and corticosteroids can disrupt the balance of bacteria and fungi in the mouth, leading to overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. This causes oral candidiasis, more commonly known as thrush. Thrush appears as creamy white lesions on the tongue, inner cheeks, and other areas of the mouth.
  • Tooth discoloration. Certain antibiotics, such as tetracycline and doxycycline, can cause permanent staining of the teeth, especially in children whose permanent teeth are still developing.
  • Osteonecrosis of the jaw. Some medications used to treat cancer, osteoporosis, and other conditions can increase the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw. This is a rare but serious condition characterized by the death of jawbone tissue.
  • Changes in taste. Some medications can alter the sense of taste, causing a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth. This can affect appetite and nutrition, causing other health problems.

What You and Your Dentist Can Do

Dealing with the side effects of medications can be frustrating. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep your mouth healthy and prevent painful conditions:

  • Let your dentist know what medications you are taking. Always let your dentist know when there are changes in your health or medication use. Your dentist is interested in the medications you are taking because they can affect your mouth as well as your dental treatments. You should also let your dentist know if you have had any recent illnesses or have any chronic conditions. 
  • Manage dry mouth. You can keep your mouth moist by sipping water often. Use sugar-free gum or hard candy to stimulate saliva flow. Also, avoid drinks with caffeine and avoid alcohol and tobaccos use, as these substances can dry out the mouth
  • Be wary of cancer treatment. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, it’s a good idea to see your dentist before beginning treatment. They can ensure that your mouth is healthy and prescribe treatments to help you maintain good oral health, if necessary. Rare but serious jaw problems as well as osteoporosis can occur in people who’ve received certain drugs to treat cancer.

Contact Our North Vancouver Dentist Today

There are many things to consider if you are experiencing dental issues, and your medications are one of them. What you take for various conditions can affect your mouth.
Blue Sky Dental can help you deal with issues affecting your teeth and gums. We’ll work with you to keep your mouth healthy for life. We treat the entire family. Schedule an appointment today. Call (604) 971-6999 today.

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