Oral Health and the Effect of Medications
Some medications, including prescription drugs and over-the-counter preparations, can damage your teeth. Medications can cause gum problems such as inflammation, bleeding or ulceration. Diseased gums can lead to other dental problems including tooth loss.
Some of these medications include:
- Antihistamines – these can cause dry mouth, and an increased risk of gum problems
- Antihypertensives – can lead to an increased risk of gum problems
- Aspirin – chewing aspirin can directly damage the tooth enamel, as aspirin is acidic. Always take aspirin strictly as directed. The tablets should be swallowed whole with water, not placed beside a tooth
- Asthma medications – some asthma drugs are highly acidic and can dissolve tooth enamel if used regularly over a long period of time
- Chemotherapy drugs – can cause a dry mouth and lead to an increased risk of gum problems
- Immunosuppressive drugs – can lead to an increased risk of gum problems
- Oral contraceptives – can lead to an increased risk of gum problems
- Syrups – medicated syrups that contain sugar can increase the risk of tooth decay if teeth are not brushed after these syrups are taken.
Some medications can cause the gum tissue to thicken and grow over the teeth. This condition is called ‘gingival hyperplasia’. Medications linked to an increased risk of gingival hyperplasia include epilepsy medications, cyclosporin (organ transplant rejection drug), some blood pressure medications and calcium channel blockers.
Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or dentist about whether the medications you are taking could harm your teeth.
Alcohol and smoking can effect teeth and gums
Regular intake of alcohol can cause a dry mouth and tooth damage, as most alcohols are acidic. Smoking is associated with an increased rate of gum problems as well as an increased risk of cancers, including oral cancer.
Illegal drugs can effect teeth and gums
The regular use of illegal drugs can cause significant tooth damage. Drugs that carry a high risk to your oral health include:
- Cannabis – also called marijuana, pot and weed. Can cause dry mouth and can lead to an increased risk of gum problems. The smoke can cause oral cancer.
- Cocaine – also called coke, blow or nose candy. Users sometimes rub cocaine over their gums, causing ulceration of gums and the underlying bone. Cocaine mixed with saliva creates an extremely acidic solution which erodes tooth enamel and exposes the underlying dentine to decay-causing bacteria. Cocaine and crack cocaine cause dry mouth, which further increases the risk of tooth decay. Cocaine can cause tooth wear by tooth grinding (bruxism).
- Ecstasy – also called love drug, E and eckies. Side effects of the drug include tooth grinding, jaw clenching and dry mouth.
- Heroin – also called H or smack. People who use heroin tend to crave sweet foods, which can increase the risk of tooth decay if dental hygiene is neglected. Heroin can also cause dry mouth and tooth grinding.
- Methamphetamine – also called speed, ice or meth. This drug causes severe tooth decay in a very short time. Dental professionals have coined the term ‘meth mouth’ to describe the extensive damage typically caused by this drug. Methamphetamine is highly acidic and attacks tooth enamel. Other side effects include dry mouth, bruxism and jaw clenching.
Any drug dependence or drug use that causes the person to neglect their personal hygiene, diet and dental care can significantly increase the risk of dental (and many other) problems.
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