HEALTH & FITNESS - Medications can hold nasty surprise for your teeth


If you have been prescribed a new and necessary medication you should be aware of a very unexpected side effect; dry mouth due to decreased saliva.

Dental professionals are seeing an increase in cavities in people on common medications such as those for blood pressure, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, etc.

People who haven't had a cavity in 20 or 30 years will, after going on medication, have multiple cavities start.

If you have exposed root surface where gums have receded the likelihood increases even more. Roots are, by some estimates, 70 percent less resistant to decay than enamel.

If your medication slows down the flow of saliva, it sets off a chain reaction of events. The pH of your mouth falls, which improves living conditions for cavity-causing bacteria and makes plaque/biofilm more sticky and hard to remove.

So what can you do? First, start by drinking an adequate amount of water: at least 8 glasses a day to improve saliva flow and increase pH in the mouth.

Next, make sure you're using a good 2-minute timed electric tooth brush such as Braun Oral-B or Sonicare to break up the sticky plaque/biofilm along the gum line. It's vital to clean between the teeth where a toothbrush can't reach with a water pik and/or small "bottle" brushes and floss.

The Biotene company makes a family of products specifically for dry mouth including toothpaste, mouthwash and oral moisturizers. Be very careful using candies and mints to increase saliva flow as these often have sugar, which feeds decay-causing bacteria.

Discuss with your dental professional if you should use a prescription-strength fluoride tooth paste and if the use of a mouthwash might be appropriate for you.

Dentists know that a cavity on the root is often the beginning of the end for a tooth.

We can patch the spot but a new cavity will soon appear unless oral-care habits and the mouth environment changes for the better.

Finally, the most effective way to combat root cavities if they start is having specially fitted application trays made to hold prescription tooth paste against the roots for about 5 minutes per day. This has been shown in more than one study to offer more than a 90 percent reduction in root cavities and can reverse starting decay in more than 55 percent of cases.

These trays can also be used to deliver a weak 1.7 percent hydrogen peroxide gel to break down the sticky bacteria biofilm/slime. If you're on medication, ask your dental professional about your risk of cavities and what would be most appropriate for you to lower that risk.

Dr. Eric Gustavsen practices dentistry at Southpoint Dental Center, 1129 S. Second Ave. More information on his practice can be found at


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