How Medications Can Affect Your Oral Health

How Medications Can Affect Your Oral Health

Apr 2, 2018

Medicines help us recover from various ailments. But they also have some adverse effects on our health in general and our oral health as well. It is important for you to mention all the medicines that you are taking when you visit your dentist as few oral problems can occur in response to these medicines.

Let’s look into the details.

Common effects of medication on Oral Health

  • Bleeding
    If you are taking blood-thinning medicines like aspirin, you have a high chance of having abnormal bleeding during any dental surgery. Drugs like aspirin are prescribed to those who have had a stroke previously or have a heart disease. Aspirin prevents the formation of blood clots, hence preventing the occurrence of a stroke or a heart attack. During dental surgery like extraction, the bleeding takes a long time to stop because of Aspirin and this can be life threatening as well. Hence, those who are having it should inform the dentist well in advance.
  • Taste alteration
    Some drugs like inhalants, smoking-cessation drugs or anti-inflammatory drugs can lead to a change in the taste sensation or give a constant bitter or metallic taste in the mouth.
  • Oral sores or discoloration
    Those who are using oral contraceptives or are under chemotherapy can develop small ulcers in the mouth. Contact your dentist if you happen to get them. Your dentist will prescribe a pain-relieving or soothing gel to alleviate the soreness and promote healing.
  • Enlarged gums
    Few medicines like antiepileptic drugs and drugs used to lower the blood pressure can cause the gums to enlarge. These enlargements are not harmful but look unsightly. Consult your physician to get an alternative drug if you notice that your gums are swelling up because of the present ones.
  • Dry mouth
    Dryness of mouth is an irritating adverse effect of multiple drugs like anti-allergic drugs, blood pressure lowering drugs and antidepressants. In this condition, the saliva production is reduced. Hence, the mouth experiences typical dryness which can have serious repercussions like oral sores, dental decay, and gum disease. Using chewing gum and drinking plenty of water can be of great help.
  • Yeast infection
    Certain drugs used for inhalation as a treatment for asthma can cause fungal infection. After using inhalers, it is highly recommended to rinse the mouth with water to flush out the medicine particles.
  • Oral thrush
    It is the common name used for oral candidiasis or candidal infection in the mouth. Candida albicans is a fungus that dwells within our body and the multiplication of the fungus is kept under control by the good micro-organisms of our body. When our immunity lowers the fungus begins to multiply causing infection. Different medicines like antibiotics taken for a long duration can cause oral thrush.
  • Bone loss
    Drugs like corticosteroids and antiepileptic drugs can cause loss of the teeth-supporting bone. Bisphosphonates are a type of drug used to treat osteoporosis. The adverse effect of this drug is that it may cause destruction of the jawbone.

Common medications negatively impacting Oral Health

Prescription medications are designed to address specific health conditions, but many of them come with unintended consequences for our oral health.

One common culprit is antidepressants. While these medications play a vital role in managing mental health, they can often lead to dry mouth as a side effect.

Dry mouth occurs when there is a decrease in saliva production, which is essential for maintaining a healthy oral environment. Saliva helps wash away food particles, neutralises acids, and protects against bacterial growth. Without sufficient saliva, the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath significantly increases.

Another that can negatively impact oral health is antihistamines. These drugs are commonly used to treat allergies, but they can also cause dry mouth. Additionally, some antihistamines can have a sedative effect, leading to a decrease in oral hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing. This combination of dry mouth and poor oral hygiene can create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, increasing the risk of dental issues.

Antacids are another group of medications that can have detrimental effects on oral health. These drugs are commonly used to alleviate symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn. However, prolonged use of antacids can lead to a decrease in saliva production, like antidepressants and antihistamines. The high sugar content in certain antacids can contribute to tooth decay if not effectively managed.

Side effects of medications on Oral Health

The impact of medications on oral health goes beyond just dry mouth. Some drugs, particularly antibiotics and steroids, can increase the risk of oral infections such as thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a naturally occurring fungus in the mouth. These medications can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and fungi in the oral cavity, allowing Candida to multiply and cause infection. Common symptoms of thrush include white patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, and throat, as well as discomfort or pain while eating or swallowing.

Medications, such as blood thinners, can also elevate the risk of excessive bleeding during dental procedures. This is because these drugs interfere with the body’s ability to form blood clots, which are essential for wound healing. It is crucial for individuals taking blood thinners to inform their dentist about their medication use before any dental treatment to ensure proper precautions are taken.

In some cases, medications can cause abnormal gum growth known as gingival hyperplasia. This side effect is most associated with calcium channel blockers, which are used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Gingival hyperplasia can cause the gums to become swollen, red, and prone to bleeding. If left untreated, it can lead to gum disease and other oral health complications.

How to mitigate medications Oral Health risks

While medications can pose risks to oral health, there are steps individuals can take to mitigate these risks and maintain good oral hygiene. One of the most important measures is to stay hydrated. Since many medications can cause dry mouth, it is essential to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep the oral cavity moist. Chewing sugar free gum or using saliva substitutes can also help stimulate saliva production.

Regular brushing and flossing are crucial for maintaining oral health, especially for those taking medications that may affect saliva production or oral hygiene habits. It is recommended to brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, and floss at least once a day. Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can also help reduce the risk of bacterial growth.

Dietary modifications can also play a role in mitigating the oral health risks of medications. Limiting the consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages can help prevent tooth decay. Choosing a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and calcium can support overall oral health. Avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption is essential, as these habits can further exacerbate oral health issues.

Tips for maintaining Oral Health while on medications

Apart from the general measures above, there are specific tips that can help individuals maintain their oral health while taking medications. For those experiencing dry mouth, using a humidifier at night can help add moisture to the air, reducing the discomfort caused by dry mouth. Sucking on sugar-free candies or lozenges can also help stimulate saliva production.

If you are taking medications that increase the risk of thrush or other oral infections, it is crucial to practice good oral hygiene to minimise the chances of infection. This includes thoroughly cleaning dentures, if applicable, and using antifungal mouthwash as recommended by your dentist.

For individuals on blood thinners, it is important to inform your dentist before any dental treatment to ensure appropriate measures are taken to control bleeding. Your dentist may adjust your medication dosage or coordinate with your healthcare provider to ensure your safety during dental procedures.

Importance of regular dental checkups

Regular dental check-ups are essential for everyone, but they become even more crucial for individuals taking medications that can pose risks to oral health. Check your health care provider for included dental cover.  Dentists are trained to identify and address medication related oral health issues early on, preventing further complications.

During dental check-ups, your dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth, gums, and oral cavity, looking for signs of decay, gum disease, or other oral health problems. They may also perform professional cleanings to remove plaque and tartar buildup, which can contribute to oral health issues.

Your dentist may provide personalised recommendations based on your medication use and overall oral health. They can advise on proper oral hygiene techniques, recommend specific oral health products, and tailor treatment plans to address any medication related concerns.


Prescription medications play a vital role in managing various health conditions, but it is important to be aware of the potential oral health risks they can pose. From dry mouth and tooth decay to gum disease and infections, medications can have unintended consequences on our oral well being. By staying informed and taking proactive measures, such as staying hydrated, practicing good oral hygiene, and scheduling regular dental check-ups, individuals can mitigate the oral health risks associated with medications.

Remember, communication with your healthcare provider and dentist is key. Inform them about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, to ensure they have a complete understanding of your medical history and can provide appropriate guidance.