One of the biggest obstacles to maintaining healthy teeth is the saliva depleting effects of many prescription medications. Although these medications can be necessary for overall patient health and cannot be discontinued, their saliva reducing properties need to be evaluated. Your dentist can then help you come up with a plan to compensate for the effects of reduced saliva.
Normal salivary flow is a first defense against tooth decay. Saliva protects us from decay in many ways. First, saliva contains immunoglobulins or antibodies that actually attach to and kill the bacteria Strep Mutans, the bacteria that cause decay. A decrease in saliva causes a decrease in these antibodies. Medications that reduce saliva can allow increase in Strep Mutans' decay causing potential. In addition, Saliva acts as a buffer, which reduces the acidity that is formed in the decay process. So decreased saliva causes increase in acidity leading to increase decay rates. Medication that reduces saliva causes an increase in the need for expensive dental procedures, and even tooth loss.
I recommend that all patients taking any medications ask your dentist if your meds have a saliva reducing effect. If so, it is very important to focus on ideal brushing and flossing habits. I would suggest that these patients brush and floss after every food exposure. Also see your dentist regularly to catch problems as soon as possible. Finally talk to your dentist about chewing sugarless gum with xylitol to increase salivary flow. Remember that Xylitol also kills Strep Mutans, the bacteria that causes decay.
Many drugs including anti-depressants, diuretics antihistamines, high blood pressure meds and pain meds can dramatically reduce salivary flow. But there are many more. Make sure to give your dentist a list of all medications and ask him or her to analyze your drug list.
The following link will take you to a list of medications that can decrease saliva flow. But again ask your dentist because all medications that have this effect are not listed and never discontinue a medication without first consulting your physician.
Craig Droskin DDS
Prescription Drugs and Oral Health
Craig Droskin DDS