Medications that Affect Your Teeth and Mouth

girl cleans stains on her teeth looking in the smartphoneThere are many different over-the-counter medications and prescription medications that can have side-effects on your oral health. While they don’t tend to be thought about as often as other potential side-effects, their impact on your oral health and hygiene is worth keeping in mind. Here are some common medications that affect your teeth and mouth, and a little bit about the side-effects they can have for your dental health.

Antacids

Antacids are used to raise your gastric pH and neutralize gastric acid, eliminating gastric reflux and helping cool down your gastrointestinal system. Tums, Prilosec, and Alka-seltzer are a few examples of these types of medications. These antacids can cause dry mouth, which is characterized by a lack of saliva and, in turn, an increased susceptibility to gum disease and tooth decay. Many antacids also contain a lot of sugar, which also accelerates the same. If you take antacids regularly, be sure to keep well-hydrated and try to buy sugar-free.

Antihistamines/Decongestants

Antihistamines work by blocking histamine receptors, thus preventing an allergic reaction from taking place. For those of us with allergies, or the millions of people a year who contract colds, antihistamines and decongestants are a welcome relief from sneezing, coughing, and other unpleasant symptoms. However, these medications often block the release of saliva, leading to dry mouth. Many syrups containing antihistamines are also mildly acidic. Keeping hydrated and brushing or rinsing after taking any syrups can help you avoid this.

High Blood Pressure Medicine

High blood pressure is a serious condition that affects many Americans, and it is often mitigated through the use of medications that block or inhibit certain enzymes. However, high blood pressure medications can cause dry mouth as well, again threatening accelerated tooth decay. Fortunately, newer drugs are coming out that have lessened oral side effects (for example, Lisinopril, which has shown to have fewer side effects.) If you think you may want to switch to a medication with fewer oral side-effects, consult with your physician to see if there’s an alternative for your needs.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids treat asthma, arthritis, lupus, COPD, and many other illnesses. However, long-term use of these medicines has been shown to cause dental pulp calcification. This alarming result was found through a study that X-rayed peoples’ dental pulp before and after they began using the corticosteroids. These pulp diseases usually took about three years to form. Pulp problems can cause pain, mouth infections, and even abscesses in severe cases. Preventative dental care is the key to reducing the negative effects of these steroids.

Antidepressants

The link between antidepressants and dental implant failure is a recently-discovered one. The study was the first of its kind, conducted in 2016 by the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, and what they found was a correlation between antidepressants and bone metabolism loss, which can lead to tooth and gum decay, as well as tooth weakening, particularly for those with dental implants. But again, this was a pilot study that still needs confirmation by other corroborating evidence. Time will tell what future studies tell us about this potential link.

Pain Medication (Including NSAIDs)

Pain medication and NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can lead to dry mouth, which often results in tooth decay due to a loss in saliva. These effects are predominantly with the regular use of prescription pills such as OxyContin and similar medications for chronic pain conditions.
Talk to your dentist and keep him or her updated on which medications you are taking. Preventative medicine and a strict dental hygiene routine are key for minimizing the effects they may have on your oral health.