How medications can damage oral health

March 3rd, 2014

Medicine is a complicated science. With every new prescription comes a laundry list of side effects. Take Yaz, for instance, a drug designed for preventing pregnancy and treating premenstrual dysphoric disorder, as well as moderate acne in adolescent girls, according to online drug index RX List. In 2012, however, Bloomberg reported that the medicine's parent company Bayer was forced to pay upwards of $110 million to settle approximately 500 lawsuits users had filed claiming the drug caused blood clots. Other side effects of Yaz later identified include depression, chest pain, migraine headaches, darkened facial skin and increased hair growth, among others. 

While every new medicine is ushered in as the solution to a problem, taking the drug can cause a host of new problems, especially regarding oral health. According to J. Timothy Modic, DDS, there are currently more than 400 medications on the market that can affect your salivary glands, causing dry mouth that may evolve into dangerous dental health problems. Without fully understanding how medications affect oral hygiene, patients are putting themselves at risk for severe dental health problems. University clinics can use dental academic software to keep patients well-educated and engaged in their own oral upkeep. 

Modic wrote that these drugs, which are generally meant to treat depression, anxiety, pain and a bevy of other conditions, rob mouths of the moisture needed to break down food. As a result, bacteria growth is almost encouraged, leading to a higher risk of gum disease and cavities, depending on how long the symptoms go untreated.

Side effects beyond dry mouth
The American Dental Association mimicked Modic's concerns in a short paper entitled "How medications can affect your oral health." In the report, ADA researchers revealed that even common medicines like aspirin can be damaging. The household drug reduces the blood's ability to clot, which while helpful in preventing a stroke, can lead to bleeding problems during oral surgery or treatment for periodontal diseases.

Other common side effects related  to oral health are enlarged gum tissue, altered taste and oral sores, researchers reported – each occurring because of a different type of medication. For instance, antiseizure medications, like phenytoin, and immunosuppressants, taken commonly after organ transplants, can lead to enlarged gum tissue, more commonly known as gingival overgrowth.

Managing side effects and oral health can be a complicated process, which is why the ADA urges patients to disclose any and all medications to their attending dentist. Not only will doctors be able to design treatment schedules that take into account existing medicines, but they'll be able to educate individuals on how certain medications might affects they daily oral hygiene routines. With dental school software, the process becomes even easier, as online portals allow for the quick and easy exchange of health documents and educational information.

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