Many people don’t realize that their oral health might be impacted by the medications, vitamins, and supplements they take. Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, as well as vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements are used frequently, especially by those older than 65 years of age, and they can indeed have implications on one’s oral health. If you are currently taking, or considering beginning, prescription or over-the-counter medications, it is important to consider any side effects they may have on your oral health. Read on to learn more, and if you have any questions about your particular medications and their possible implications for your mouth, give La Mesa Hills Dentistry a call, and we will be happy to consult with you.

With the American population aging, and more medications and supplements becoming available on the market, dentists have seen an uptick in medication-related oral side effects among their patients. A number of medications (prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins and minerals, herbal preparations) can affect oral health. One of the most common side effects of several medications is dry mouth. Antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, Parkinson’s disease medications, antidepressants and many other medications can cause this undesirable side effect.  

Dry mouth can be uncomfortable and even painful. Dry mouth is the underproduction of saliva, and is usually caused by a reduced salivary flow or by changes in the biochemical composition of saliva. Patients with dry mouth may complain about difficulties when chewing, swallowing or even speaking. But saliva does more than just keep the mouth wet, it is critical to your oral health. Saliva helps digest food, protects teeth from decay, prevents infection by controlling bacteria in the mouth, and makes chewing and swallowing possible. Saliva is critical for keeping food from collecting around the teeth and neutralizing the acids produced by plaque. Those acids can damage the hard surfaces of your teeth, thus increasing your risk for tooth decay. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.

 Known in the medical community as xerostomia, dry mouth can have a detrimental effect on the mouth’s soft oral tissues – the gums, cheek lining, and tongue – as well. Dry mouth can cause irritation in these soft tissues, which often leads to inflammation and can make them more susceptible to infection. Some medications, including those prescribed for blood pressure control, immunosuppressive agents, oral contraceptives and some chemotherapeutic agents, have been linked to the development of oral sores, inflammation or discoloration of these soft tissues. These conditions can have serious implications for your oral and overall health, and if you are experiencing any symptoms it is important to promptly speak to your dentist as well as your physician. 

Patients using oral inhalers for asthma often experience another effect medications can have on oral health. Inhaling medication through the mouth can cause a fungal infection called oral candidiasis. Also known as thrush, this infection appears as white spots in the mouth and can be painful. Rinsing the mouth after using an inhaler can help to prevent this infection, so oral inhaler users are encouraged to rinse their mouths with water after using the inhaler.

Cancer treatments also can affect oral health. Rare but serious jaw problems also can occur in people who have received bone strengthening drugs to treat cancer and, to a lesser extent, osteoporosis. If possible, see your dentist before beginning any treatment, and let your dentist know what treatment is planned. Your dentist can ensure that your mouth is healthy and, if necessary, can prescribe treatments to help you maintain good oral health. Your dentist may also perform any necessary dental work before you begin treatment or taking medications that could affect your teeth, gums or jaw bone.

At LMHD, we want to know about the medications you are taking so that we can provide the best dental care for you. Tell us about your medication use and your overall health, especially if you have had any recent illnesses or have any chronic conditions. It’s a good idea to let us know before you begin any new medications, so we can advise you on how those medications may affect your oral health. We’re here to be your partner in your oral and your overall health, so give us a heads up when there are changes in your health or medication use.

At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, in La Mesa, California, we believe in complete oral health, and it is our mission to help you maintain not only good oral health, but good overall health as well. Experiencing dry mouth, or other unintended consequences of your medication? Let us know, and we will do everything we can to steer you towards greater oral health. Talk to us about any medications you are taking, and let us know if there are any changes to your general health or the medications and supplements you are using. Think of us as part of your health team. Have any questions? Contact us today! At LMHD, we are here to help.