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The Importance of Talking to Your Dentist about the Medications You Are Taking

Posted on 10/13/2015 by Truman Nielsen
A collection of medication pills beside a medicine bottle.Many dental patients don't understand just how important it is to let their dentists know about any medications that they are taking. After all, your dentist is just checking out your mouth to look for cavities, right? Think again. There are a variety of ways that the medications you take can affect your oral health, so it is important that you keep your dentist informed about any med changes that you might experience.

What Should You Tell Your Dentist?

When talking to your dentist at your semi-annual checkup, it is important to tell him about any medications or herbal remedies that you are taking, including all drugs, such as aspirin, antacids, allergy and cold medicines, or other pain relievers. You should also be sure that your dentist knows about medications that you need to take via injection, including insulin, or medicine patches that you need to wear.

Since it can sometimes be difficult to remember all the meds that you are taking, it may be beneficial to take in an updated list to each appointment. You can even have your pharmacy print off a list so that you don't have to write everything down.

Why Does Your Dentist Need this Information?

There is an important tie between oral health and medication, and if you are experiencing a problem with your teeth and gums, the meds that you are taking could be the cause. For example, certain blood pressure medications could contribute to enlarged gums known as gingival overgrowth. A person that is experiencing this complication could fear that they have an infection or serious gum disease, when in reality, this is simply a side effect of their medication.

The gums aren't the only area in your mouth that can be affected by your medications. In fact, some drugs can contribute to tooth decay in a few ways. First, some medications can cause dry mouth, which is a problem with the saliva production. Saliva is extremely important in preventing bacteria in the mouth, and it also helps to repair the teeth.

When medications cause dry mouth, your saliva flow will be reduced, so the bacteria will have an easier path to cause tooth decay. Antihistamines, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and medications for Alzheimer's or Parkinson's can all cause dry mouth, so you should ask your dentist about ways to protect your teeth if you are taking these drugs.

Tooth decay can also be the result of the medication you take for other reasons. Many medicines have sugars added to them, including cough syrups and vitamins. Syrup-based medications are especially problematic, as they can coat your teeth in a harmful way, making them more susceptible to decay. If you do take these medications, make sure that you are always washing out your mouth after use.

Are There Other Side Effects I Should Know About?
Other medications can also cause oral side effects. Taking oral birth control has been linked to the development of inflammation and mouth sores, while the popular acne medication tetracycline can cause discoloration to the teeth and the underlying bone. Even over-the-counter remedies like ibuprofen could cause mouth ulcers.

Drugs that affect your nervous system could also have an impact on your oral health. When you experience side effects like motor impairment, lethargy, and fatigue, it may be hard to brush or floss. This can make it difficult to maintain your oral health routine.

Do you have questions about how your medications might be impacting your oral health? Please contact us for an appointment. We can determine whether your medications are causing any problems and can give you tips on how to protect your teeth in the future.
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