Why is it important to tell my dentist about the medications I am on?

If you're on any over-the-counter or prescription meds, it's important to let your dentist know. Medications can impact your overall oral health. Furthermore, certain medical conditions in itself could also impact your oral well-being. As health professionals, dentists need to provide the safest and best treatment to their patients. To do this, they need to know about any medical conditions that you may have and if you take any medications.

Disclose any information to your dentist, even if you don't think it relates to your mouth. Remember, your mouth is just one part of your entire body. Your oral health is connected to your overall health, and vice versa.

Medicines and little teeth

A child's permanent teeth start developing from the jawbone from as soon as after birth. The Australian Dental Association warns that although hidden, these developing teeth are vulnerable to certain substances, including:

  • Tetracycline (An antibiotic which can cause yellow or brown discolouration in permanent teeth)
  • Fluoride (Although it strengthens teeth if used in correct amounts, excessive amounts can cause white or discoloured spots to form on developing permanent teeth. It's called fluorosis. Don't let your young child swallow fluoridated toothpaste, as it can cause fluorosis.)

Reduction in very important saliva

There are many medications that can cause a notable reduction in saliva. But first, let's talk about why saliva is so important:

  • It washes away food and debris from teeth and gums.
  • Helps moisten and break down food to ease swallowing and enhances the ability to taste.
  • Provides disease-fighting substances throughout your mouth to help prevent cavities and other infections.
  • Helps keep the surface of your teeth strong by providing high levels of calcium, fluoride and phosphate ions at the tooth surface.

Saliva may carry indicators of health concerns as well. Since it shares many properties with blood, the use of saliva to detect and diagnose oral diseases and other diseases that could affect your general health is being studied.

Medications that can reduce saliva in the mouth include certain antidepressants, diuretics (water pills), antihistamines, decongestants, medications for Parkinson's disease, blood pressure tablets (beta blockers) and inhalers.

Tell your dentist if you have been using any of these medications.

Medications may react with medicaments used during procedures

Products used during dental treatments of procedures may have a reaction to ingredients of the medication you are using, so it is important that you mention all these to your dentist. Examples include:

  • Some heart conditions may react badly to certain types of anesthetic.
  • Some medications such as blood thinners slow your blood's ability to clot. This can be significant after a dental extraction.
  • Even certain vitamins and supplements can affect how your body responds to dental treatment. For example, taking large doses of fish oil may contribute to excessive bleeding.
  • Drinking apple cider vinegar regularly can cause negative changes to your oral environment.
  • Past abnormal responses to anesthetic or medications such as antibiotics will alert your dental team so they can use a different medication.

Chemotherapy and dental health

Treatment to combat cancer mainly chemotherapy could also be harmful to your overall oral health. Inside your mouth is a healthy mix of (mainly) good bacteria. There are also harmful bacteria. Chemotherapy may cause changes in the lining of the mouth and the salivary glands. This, in turn, can upset the healthy balance of bacteria, which can lead to mouth sores, infections and tooth decay. You might find it difficult to eat, chew, swallow or even talk.

You are more likely to get an infection inside your mouth, which can be dangerous when you are receiving cancer treatment.

Here's a list of oral symptoms or side effects caused by cancer or its treatment:

  • Dry mouth
  • Thickened saliva
  • Changes in taste
  • Mouth sores
  • Tooth decay
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty chewing or opening the mouth
  • Infection

If you are undergoing or have undergone chemotherapy as a treatment against cancer, be sure to tell your dentist. The side-effects will significantly impact the way you receive dental treatment.

Complete medical history

Sharing your complete medical history with your dentist and not only the medications you're taking will go a long way in helping your dentist identify possible oral issues. For example, if you mention that you sometimes struggle with reflux, your dentist will be sure to look for signs of acid damage in your mouth, throat and teeth. If you suffer from epilepsy, severe episodes could damage your teeth, and anxiety disorders could also negatively impact your teeth, if you regularly clench your jaw.

What you can do

Dental Health Services Victoria suggests several precautions you can take to ensure your oral health is not influenced by the medications you take.

  • Check labels to determine whether a sugar-based medication is being taken.
  • Ask your doctor about the sugar content of medications or the effect on saliva flow.
  • Limit the use of, or request alternatives to, sugar-based medications when appropriate. Never change medications without speaking to your doctor first.
  • If sugar-based medication is used, rinse your mouth with water immediately after taking the medication.
  • Discuss medications with your general practitioner or oral health professional, and disclose your medical history as thoroughly as possible!

City Dentists offers a holistic approach when it concerns your oral health and overall wellbeing. Make an appointment with one of the professional practitioners today.