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Understanding the Link Between Medications and Cavities

BrayanShanahanI was speaking to my dad (who lived in Chicago) the other day and he was telling me about some issues he was having issues with his mouth being dry all the time. It got me thinking that it is a discussion I have often with patients. There are numerous health conditions that can lead to dry mouth but the most common cause is medications. Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. However, it is a side effect in more than 500 medications, including those for allergies or asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety or depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Also, you may wonder why you’re suddenly getting cavities when you haven’t had them in years. As we get older, we enter a second round of cavity prone years. One common cause of cavities in older adults is – you guessed it, dry mouth. This is just one reason why it’s so important to tell your dentist about any medications that you’re taking. Your dentist can make recommendations to help relieve your dry mouth symptoms and prevent cavities. Here are some common recommendations:

  • Use over-the-counter oral moisturizers, such as a spray or mouthwash.
  • Consult with your physician on whether to change the medication or dosage.
  • Drink more water. Carry a water bottle with you and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Your mouth needs constant lubrication.
  • Use sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production.
  • Get a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that irritate dry mouths, like coffee, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks and acidic fruit juices.
  • Your dentist may apply a fluoride gel or varnish to protect your teeth from cavities.

In the past 20 years, the remedies for dry mouth have expanded significantly and will continue to do so in the future. Moisture in your mouth is not only important for comfort but it washes away bacteria and plaque that lead to not only decay but gum disease.

Talk to your dentist about remedies for this very fixable problem. FBN

By Bryan J. Shanahan, DDS

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