Prescription Medication: An Agent of Decay

February 1st, 2017 by Bash Dental

At Bash Dental, we offer comprehensive 24-hour dental services for the Philadelphia region. We also believe it is important to educate our patients about different topics regarding their oral health.

When discussing tooth decay, the perils of sugary foods and drinks tend to take center stage. Although sugar is a culprit, another agent of decay is often glanced over. Your prescription medication could be causing far more damage than you realized. Here are some things you should know about the harm your prescriptions can cause.

Benefits of Saliva

Saliva acts as a buffer to keep teeth healthy as it fends off harmful bacteria, regulates PH and aids tooth remineralization. Without proper salivary function, your teeth will almost certainly suffer some degree of damage. The overwhelming cause of prescription drugs damaging teeth comes down to decreased salivary flow. When saliva production is lessened, teeth are more vulnerable to acid attack- mitigating the effects of bacteria.

What prescription drugs can damage my teeth?

There are hundreds of prescription medications that can pose a threat to your oral health. Below is a brief list of those which most commonly prescribed which can cause tooth decay because of dry mouth

  • ADHD Medications (Adderall, Ritalin)
  • Painkillers (Vicodin, Percocet)
  • Antihistamines (Vistaril, Atarax)
  • Blood Pressure Medications (Inderal, Clonidine)
  • Sleep Aids (Ambien, Lunesta)

Although dry mouth is a common cause, commonly prescribed antibiotics such as Doxycycline can also adversely affect dentin development in the teeth of unborn babies and children up to the seven years old.

The risks that prescription medications pose to your teeth are not always communicated or known by doctors. Furthermore, the risks and warning pamphlets included with your medication at the pharmacy aren’t always complete. Always be sure to ask your doctor about your medication and do not quit until you get the data.

Compounding Effects

In addition to your prescription drugs, lifestyle choices, habits and side effects of the drug can cause tooth damage to progress at an accelerated rate.

For example, to combat dry mouth, it’s natural to experience the urge to take in more fluids. All too often, those fluids are filled with sugar and acid that only weakened enamel more susceptible to damage.

Stimulants commonly prescribed for ADHD (Adderall, Ritalin) are notorious for causing lack of appetite. Not only is this bad for your overall health, but going without eating also denies the body of increased saliva production that aids digestion. This further impacts the salivary buffer time teeth should experience on a daily basis. Overuse and abuse of your medication can also exacerbate the damaging effect of certain prescription meds.

Some more compounding factors include:

  • Failure to visit your dentist regularly
  • Unaddressed grinding or clenching issues
  • Caffeine intake
  • Stress
  • Poor home care
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking
  • Use of recreational drugs such as cocaine and crystal meth

Ways to Mitigate Damage

If your medication is necessary, there are some ways to lessen the damaging effect that medications can have on teeth and gums. Here are just a few

  • Chew sugar-free gum to encourage the production of saliva
  • Make sure you know the risks of your medication by asking your doctor or pharmacist if it can be damaging to your teeth. Ask your doctor about lower dosages and if less harmful alternatives exist for your condition.
  • Make an effort to avoid exacerbating factors like smoking, consuming soda and energy drinks, high-stress lifestyle
  • Be proactive and methodical about regular dental checkups and maintaining an excellent home care regimen

What can I do now?

Fortunately, we can help repair damaged teeth if the decay is caught early enough. However, tooth damage from medications and dry mouth can occur rather quickly and tend to affect many teeth simultaneously, so it’s up to you to ensure that potential issues are detected in a timely manner.

Remember, to be honest about all prescription and recreational drug use with your dentist and doctor. Also, never stop taking your prescribed drug without the direct supervision of your doctor.

If your medication is causing consistent dry mouth, then you are at a higher risk for tooth damage than others. Make an appointment at Bash Dental, the leading 24-hour emergency dentist serving Philadelphia, to regain control of your oral health.

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