Anyone taking medication is aware that they all have side effects, and one of the more common side effects is called xerostomia, or dry mouth.
A dry mouth in turn puts you at risk of tooth decay and infections in the mouth. That’s because saliva has a key role in protecting teeth from bacteria and decay, so a lack of it leaves them more vulnerable to both.
Meanwhile, persistent dryness irritates the soft tissues in your mouth, which can lead to inflammation, heightening your risk of infections of the gums, roof of the mouth or tongue.
For these reasons, it’s worth knowing which medications are known to cause xerostomia, so you can be ready with some fixes ahead of time.
It is well known that the acid from heartburn and acid reflux can cause tooth decay.
What is not commonly known, though, is that the medication to treat heartburn can also weaken your teeth’s defences to the acid by causing a dry mouth.
All chewable, dissolvable and liquid antacids carry this risk, but chewable antacids can be especially harmful if they get stuck between gums, and can even create cavities if left for a prolonged period.
Also, some antacids can be high in sugar, that can cause further damage to the teeth.
Studies have shown that people who suffer from chronic pain are more likely have poor tooth health, including periodontal disease and tooth loss.
This is because most pain medication causes a dry mouth, so those who use pain medication regularly need to be extremely vigilant when it comes to the health of their teeth.
Opioids in particular are guilty of causing an excessively dry mouth, which results in the erosion of tooth enamel.
An antihistamine’s job is to block the release of saliva and mucus as well as receptors to prevent allergic reactions.
This is a great help during hay-fever season, but the dry mouth they cause can lead to cavities and plaque build-up.
Cough syrups are also harmful to tooth health because they are highly acidic and often sugary too, leading to decay and discolouration.
Blood pressure medications have been known to create gum swelling and even over-growth, which can interfere with effective teeth cleaning, allowing bacteria to cause infection or plaque to build up.
Medications including beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, heart rhythmic medications, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors all cause a dry mouth, so it’s important to keep hydrated when using them.
Antidepressants can cause a dry mouth, as well having negative effects on bone health.
Studies have linked the use of antidepressants to poor bone health, which heightens the chance of contracting oral yeast infections, gum disease, experiencing bad breath and suffering from tooth decay.
To minimise the damage these medications can cause, there are a number of things you can do, however.
One of these is to increase your water intake to at least 10 glasses of water a day, which will keep your mouth hydrated.
Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day and booking in for regular dental checkups is also essential for keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
There are also a number of hydrating mouth rinses and moisturising mouth sprays on the market that you could try.