Do you take at least one medication daily? Chances are that you do — statistics show that nearly 60% of Americans take at least one prescription drug, and plenty of those people are taking more than one. If you include over-the-counter medications, those percentages get even higher. But how many of those people are talking to their dentists about their medications?
Your Medications and Your Oral Health
Though your medications and your dental health may seem disconnected, there are plenty of medications that can impact your teeth, tongue, and mouth. This is especially important for seniors, who are more likely to be taking multiple prescription medications.
Do you take a prescription for depression, anxiety, or epilepsy? What about asthma, acne, or hypertension? Prescriptions for everything from allergies to nausea can have the common side effect of dry mouth. While this may seem more unpleasant than dangerous, saliva helps keep food from building up on your teeth, and can even neutralize acids that damage your enamel. Less saliva means more risk of tooth decay.
Oral health is probably the last thing on most cancer patients’ minds, but cancer treatments like chemotherapy can affect the soft tissues of your mouth, like your tongue, cheeks, and gums. It can also lead to oral infections that could be easy to miss if you aren’t seeing a dentist regularly — and those infections are much more dangerous to cancer patients than to the average person. It’s vital that people see a dentist before starting cancer treatment.
Taking bone strengthening drugs for osteoporosis? Jaw problems from this kind of medication are rare, but can be extremely dangerous. What about seizure medications, or blood pressure medications? Those can cause gum swelling and even gum overgrowth. Some immunosuppressants and even oral contraceptives can cause inflammation or sores in the mouth.
And of course, if you’re getting more than just a cleaning, medications become even more important. In cases of oral surgeries or periodontal treatments, it’s imperative that your dentist know if you’re taking medications that result in abnormal bleeding, such as aspirin or anticoagulants. Medications can affect your ability to heal from procedures like dental implants.
Communicate With Your Dentist
Your medications should be solving problems, not creating them! The best way to make sure they don’t negatively impact your oral health is to communicate with your dentist about what medications you’re taking and how they could affect your teeth and mouth.
If you’re taking any medications regularly, bring a list to your next dental appointment so that your dentist is aware of any potential elevated risks for decay, and can keep an eye out for any oral side effects that your medication may have. If your medication changes your oral health situation at all, your dentist can work with you to develop an updated oral hygiene plan that is customized to your specific needs.
Even if you aren’t taking medications regularly, it’s a good idea to tell your dentist if you’ve had recent illness. When in doubt, communicate! It’s better for your dentist to have information they don’t need than to lack information that could help them better protect your oral health.