Many medications, even over-the-counter ones including vitamins and herbal supplements, can negatively impact your oral health. That’s why it’s important to always inform your dental team about any new medications you are taking. Your dentist should also have your most up-to-date medical history. Read on and discover how some of the most common medications can affect your oral health.
The side effects of medications
Medications, even over-the-counter ones like aspirin or vitamins, minerals, and supplements, can affect your teeth, gums, and mouth in general. For example, did you know that over 400 medications have the potential to cause dry mouth? Or that aspirin can cause abnormal bleeding especially during oral surgery? Here are some of the most common side effects of medications on your teeth and oral health:
- Dry mouth
- Altered taste
- Gum discolouration
- Inflammation of the soft tissues of the mouth
- Enlarged gums
- Abnormal bleeding
- Bone loss
Below, we’ll go into more detail on some of these side effects, and what you can do to counter them.
Taste altering side effects
Some medications can leave a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth. Others may even affect your ability to taste. For example, cardiovascular drugs like beta blockers, central nervous system stimulants, some respiratory inhalants, smoking cessation drugs like Nicotine patches, and anti-inflammatory medications can affect taste. If you experience this side effect and find it bothersome, ask your doctor to change your medication.
Aspirin and anticoagulants like heparin or warfarin reduce blood clotting. This is beneficial for heart attacks or strokes, but less so during oral or periodontal surgery. Taking these medications can cause your gums to bleed during these procedures. As such, it is very important to inform your dentist if you are taking them. Furthermore, make sure you use a toothbrush with soft bristles and be careful when flossing to minimize gum bleeding.
Soft tissue changes
Certain prescription drugs such as blood pressure medication, immunosuppressive agents, chemotherapy drugs, and oral contraceptives can provoke changes in the soft tissues in your mouth. These changes include discolouration, oral sores, and inflammation. Ask your dentist about a special oral regiment that can limit discomfort caused by these changes.
Enlarged gums, also known as gingival overgrowth, are a potential side effect of anti-seizure medications, immunosuppressant drugs (after an organ transplant), and calcium channel blockers for cardiovascular conditions. People who experience enlarged gums need to be extremely careful when cleaning teeth, so ask your dentist for proper instructions.
As mentioned above, many drugs, including over-the-counter ones, can cause dry mouth. These include antihistamines, painkillers, decongestants, muscle relaxants, blood pressure medications, antidepressants and many others. Dry mouth can cause soft tissues in the mouth to become irritated and inflamed and more prone to infection. Furthermore, without the cleaning effect of saliva, you are more at risk of developing tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Thrush, also known as an oral yeast infection, can be caused by certain antibiotics, steroids, or chemotherapy drugs. Thrush appears as white lesions on the tongue and mouth. If you have thrush, your dentist may prescribe an antifungal mouthwash or lozenges to treat the infection.
Sugar is commonly found in liquid medications, cough drops and syrups, vitamins, antacids and antifungal agents. If you take these medications for longer periods, they may cause tooth decay and cavities. If possible, take these medications at mealtime or consider sugar-free alternatives if available.
What can you do about the effects of medication on your teeth and dental health?
If your medication is causing negative side effects, the best course of action is to talk to your doctor about it. They may be able to prescribe a different medication with lesser side effects. Or suggest making lifestyle changes. For any oral health-related side effects, a dentist can prescribe certain regimens or antifungal mouthwashes that can help alleviate discomfort.
And remember to always brush and floss daily. You should also schedule regular dental checkups, and tell your doctor and dentist about any problems that may arise. To book your next appointment at the Fortin Poirier Dental Clinic, contact us today.