Sometimes dental care can be complicated. On top of brushing, flossing, and the frequency of your dental visits, it’s important to pay attention to how the medication you take can interact with your oral health. Some medications can change how quickly your teeth decay, which can lead to costly corrective surgeries and fillings. If you’re taking any of these medications, talk to Dr. Halsema about how frequently you should be coming in.
Medications and Your Dental Health
If you’re taking medication for ADHD, depression, narcolepsy, anxiety, pain, allergies, obesity, acne, epilepsy, hypertension, or other conditions, double-check your warning labels; dry mouth is a common side effect. It’s an easy discomfort to ignore, but it’s one that can cause big problems if left unchecked.
Saliva has antibacterial properties. It’s the body’s main defense for tooth decay, and it keeps your teeth healthy between brushing. Without it, any bad habits you might have when it comes to brushing and flossing are twice as bad for you. The bad breath that’s commonly associated with dry mouth only comes from a small portion of the bacteria in your mouth; the rest are eating your teeth.
There’s an obvious limit to the impact that as-needed over-the-counter medication can have on your dental health, but any medication that you take every single day (or even just most days of the week) can have a profound effect. And for the patients who are taking that medication for ADHD or depression, there are often maladaptive behaviors involved that can make the issue even worse.
This is especially critical for children, as the habits they develop when they’re young can influence their lifelong health outlook. Knowing what their medication means for their teeth can help you as a parent shape their life skills and personal expectations.
How Often is Often Enough?
Most patients should go to the dentist twice a year, or once at the very least; patients who experience dry mouth (and other medications that cause dry mouth) should plan on going more often. The exact frequency will depend on your habits, of course, but it’s important to coordinate with your dentist. A dental plan that starts with frequent visits and changes over time as better habits are developed is reasonable.
Combating Dry Mouth at Home
On top of brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist frequently, there are some things you can do at home to reduce the impact of dry mouth. You won’t be able to replace what the dentist does, but you can at least make their job a lot easier.
Stimulate Saliva Production
Your body doesn’t produce a static amount of saliva all the time; it responds to what you smell and what you eat. Smelling a delicious meal and chewing food activates nerves in your mouth that kick-start your salivary response (primarily in preparation for digestion), and you can take advantage of that.
Sugar free lozenges and gum can help you increase your saliva production and limit tooth decay. Just don’t use them as an excuse to eat candy; that’d be counter-productive.
Drink Water and Manage Humidity
Whatever you do, don’t make your dry mouth worse than it has to be. Stay hydrated, keep a water bottle with you when you can, and make sure you’re drinking consistently throughout the day instead of all at once.
If you live in a dry environment, buy a humidifier. Arizona summers can make everything worse.
Buy Artificial Saliva
This might sound kinda gross, but there is medication for dry mouth. Artificial saliva replicates the moistening (but not the anti-bacterial) aspects of natural saliva, in a way that’s more effective than just drinking water. It isn’t a perfect solution, but there are ADA approved artificial salivas that can help.
In addition to sprays and mouth washes, there are also adhesive disks that can be used to supplement saliva production. They’re somewhat similar to breath strips in appearance, and they’re designed to stick to the top of your mouth (without interfering with speech!) and slowly dissolve.
Improve Your Dental Habits
There’s no way around it; if you have dry mouth, you need to upgrade your oral routine. Brush frequently, floss frequently, use a fluoride rinse, and visit Dr. Halsema. Fitting extra appointments into your schedule might be frustrating, but it’s less expensive than losing your teeth.