Gary Glassman, DDS, FRCD(C) and Bruce V. Freeman DDS, DOrtho, MSc
All drugs have side-effects, many of which can impact your oral health. Medications taken for everything from cancer and high blood pressure to a cough, can have a negative impact on the health of your teeth and their support structures. This also includes many over-the-counter products, vitamins, and supplements. Here are some side effects, that you may experience in your mouth from certain drugs and how to prevent them.
Medications that cause dry mouth can result in a slowing of saliva production. Without enough saliva, the tissues in your mouth can become irritated and inflamed and the acid by-products of bacteria will not be washed away, which can result an increased risk of tooth decay. As well, food may not taste as good anymore as saliva is important to this process too. There are now more than 400 medications that are known to cause dry mouth. This list includes but is not limited to the following types of medications: Alzheimer’s disease medications, antidepressants, antihistamines, antipsychotics, blood pressure and heart medications, decongestants, diuretics, and analgesics. Never change your medication regimen without speaking with the prescribing physician. Some remedies for dry mouth include but are not limited to: Chewing sugar free gum, limiting caffeine intake, smoking cessation, staying hydrated (drink lots of water), and using a prescribed and over-the-counter preparations.
Some medications can cause a proliferation of gum tissue. The tissue becomes so enlarged that it begins to grow over the teeth, greatly increasing your risk of periodontal disease and tooth decay, due to an inability to floss and brush properly. Some examples of medications that may tissue growth include but are not limited to: Seizure medications, transplant rejection medications, and certain blood pressure medications. There are also a few points to make about this side effect. Good oral hygiene with frequent visits to the dentist, will help lower your chances of developing this condition.
There are certain inhalers, used for asthma, that may lead to yeast inside the mouth. This is called oral candidiasis. The best prevention is to always rinse your mouth with water after using your inhaler.
Mouth ulcers, also called canker sores, are open sores that appear inside the mouth or on the tongue. Some precautions you can take to prevent canker sores can include avoiding foods that irritate your mouth, including acidic, hot or spicy foods, don’t chew gum, brush with a soft-bristled brush and floss daily. Also avoid oral hygiene products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Toothpastes made for children are often gentler and a reasonable substitute in addition to rinsing with warm water mixed with baking soda.
While some medications can result in metallic taste, others, can result in a salty or bitter taste. Others may alter the taste of food, causing a salty or bitter taste as well. Some tips to avoid the metallic taste can include chewing sugarless gum, a good flossing and brushing routine, avoiding flavored toothpastes, staying hydrated, and most importantly, not smoking.
Your dentist and physician must work together to address any medication-related oral health concerns. Be sure to always communicate fully with your healthcare team to ensure your oral health and overall wellbeing is maintained with any pharmacologic regimen.