Caring for an Elderly Parent With Special Dental Needs

Caring for an Elderly Parent With Special Dental Needs

Medications That Put You At Risk Of Dental Problems

Joe Lawrence

Although prescription medications are intended to improve your health, some of the same drugs that treat illness can damage your teeth. The risk of dental problems increases when you take the medications over a prolonged period of time. It helps to know if the side effects of medications you or your child take make you more prone to dental problems. When you go for a dental exam, let your dentist know of any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are currently taking.

Dental Problems a Side Effect of Certain Medications

While there are many prescription medications that can be harmful to teeth, common offenders include drugs used to treat:

  • high blood pressure (calcium channel blockers)

  • anxiety and depression (sedatives and antidepressants)

  • back pain (muscle relaxants)

  • allergies (antihistamines and decongestants)

  • asthma (beta agonists, corticosteroids)

Over-the counter medications that can harm your teeth include:

  • aspirin

  • cough and cold syrups

  • allergy drugs (antihistamines)

Why Some Medications Cause a Problem

Tooth Discoloration

Antibiotics, such as tetracycline and doxycycline, doctors prescribe for children to fight infections can discolor teeth. Children younger than age 8, whose teeth aren't yet fully developed, are at particular risk. Antipsychotics, drugs used to treat high blood pressure, and antihistamines are other medications that can discolor teeth.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a common side effect of calcium channel blockers used to combat high blood pressure. Tricyclic antidepressants, asthma medications, and over-the-counter pain medications and antihistamines also cause dry mouth.

Dry mouth increases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Saliva neutralizes the acids that bacteria in plaque produce. If left unchecked, these bacteria eat away at tooth enamel until you eventually get a cavity.

The saliva in your mouth also contains minerals that strengthen weakened tooth enamel. Decreased saliva flow means damaged tooth enamel won't be remineralized.


The high sugar content in some cough and cold medicines can lead to cavities. Children's over-the-counter medications in particular can be harmful to the teeth. Giving your child the medicine at bedtime increases the risk of tooth decay.

Saliva flow naturally decreases during the night while they're asleep. Children who don't brush their teeth after taking medicine and before going to bed give sugar and bacteria more time to stick around on their teeth and gums. Unfortunately, bacteria aren't happy just hanging out -- not when the time is better spent damaging tooth enamel.

Minimizing the Risk

Taking medications with meals instead of at bedtime reduces the risk of tooth damage. Brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste or rinsing the mouth with water after taking medicine also provides protection against tooth decay. Chewing sugarless gum afterward is another proactive tactic that helps by stimulating the flow of saliva, which washes away bacteria on the gums and surface of the teeth. Talk to your dentist, such as Dr. Dean Simmons DDS PA, for more information.


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Caring for an Elderly Parent With Special Dental Needs

Caring for an elderly parent tends to be tough enough without the added stress of dealing with dental implants or dentures. But, the prospect is not the end of the world—there are many things you can do to ensure that your parent's dental health is not compromised without having to spend a lot of personal time doing the care yourself. Between working with the right dentist, hiring a service provider for part time work, and giving your parent the tools he or she needs to care for his or her own dental health at home, you'll find that dental health for your loved one isn't so tough or time consuming after all. Hopefully you are able to get the support and information you need right here.