Medicines Can Cause Dry Mouth | Linden, NJ | Isaac Menasha, DDS

Now more than ever, pharmaceutical companies are advertising on television during commercial breaks.  Listening to the commercial, you notice that beyond the smiling faces, most of the commercial deals with potential side effects.  Most of them sound scary to me such as shortness of breath, suicidal thoughts and diffculty in swallowing.   The side effects alone take up more than half the commercial and I start to ask myself, would this medication really help me or cause me more harm?

Thanks to modern medicine, people are living longer than ever into their eighties, nineties and some even beyond one hundred.  Medications to treat high blood preassure, high cholesterol, diabetes, antidepressants…are taken by a large portion of Americans mid age and up.  With every medication that we take, there is usually a side effect with it. 

How do some of these medications affect your mouth?  As we get older and start to take more medications, the risk to develop  the most common symptom of dry mouth increases.  How bad can a little dry mouth be?  Imagine being out in the heat and you feel thirsty, yet there is nothing around you that you can drink.  Your mouth feels dry and partched and it can start to hurt.  This is what a dry mouth can feel like and it is not pleasant.  Other affects include  sores in the mouth,  split skin at the corners of the mouth, cracked lips, burning or tingling sensation in the mouth,  a dry red raw tongue and bad breath.

Saliva is our natural liquid in the mouth that helps to keep our mouth wet, helps us to chew and swallow our food easier, and helps to wash our teeth.  I tell my patients to think of your mouth as a dishwasher.  Saliva serves as the water and your teeth are like the dishes.  So what can happen if you are taking a medication for a different problem and the side effect results in having a dry mouth? 

A person with dry mouth is at a higher risk for developing cavities, especially cavities at the gum line or on the roots of your teeth.  They are lacking the benefits of saliva that helps to remove food around these areas and prevent cavities from forming. 

What kind of medications are most likely to cause dry mouth?  If you are taking an antihypertensive drug, a urinary incontinence drug, antipsychotic, antidepressant, certain antibiotics, antihistamines, certain narcotic pain medicines that give a “cotton mouth” feeling or a diuretic, then you may experience symptoms of a dry mouth.  If you are experiencing a dry mouth from one or more of your medications, talk with your doctor who may be able to recommend a different medication that does not cause this symptom.

Here are some things that you can do if you have a dry mouth.  You can drink plenty of water to keep your mouth wet, suck on sugar fee candies or chew sugarless gum, brush your teeth with a high flouride prescription toothpaste, use a fluoride rinse and use an over the counter artificial substitute.  Most of all visit your dentist regularly because a dry mouth leads to a higher risk of developing cavities.


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