Why Dentists Need To Know About Medications You Are Taking

Photo of Dr. Roger Bisbey
Roger Bisbey, D.D.S.
Family Dentist Tree

Have you ever wondered why your dentist asks for your current medication list at each visit? We checked with Dr. Roger Bisbey, D.D.S. to get the answer to our question.

Many medications, prescribed by your physician and obtained over-the-counter, can affect your oral health.  One of the most common side effects of many medications is dry mouth.  Natural saliva helps keep food from collecting around your teeth and neutralizes acids given off by bacterial plaque, which is continuously growing on the surface of the teeth.  These acids damage the hard surfaces of your teeth which greatly increases your risk for tooth decay.  The bacteria also forms plaque that can stick to soft tissues, leading to an increased risk of gingivitis and progressive gum diseases.

Two of the most commonly used medications that cause dry mouth are inhaled medications and nasal sprays.

  • Individuals with breathing complications often use some type of medication inhaled through the mouth. These medications can also affect the gums, as well as the cheek lining or tongue, causing a fungal infection called oral candidiasis. Sometimes called thrush, this infection appears as white spots in your mouth and can be quite painful in some cases.
  • Continuous use of nasal sprays for allergies or asthma treatment can also dry the mouth.

photo of medicationIn addition to commonly prescribed medications, cancer treatments can also affect your oral health.  If possible, see your dentist before beginning treatment to ensure your mouth is starting in good health, and if necessary, prescribe treatments to help maintain your oral health.

Your dentist is not only interested in your current medications, but also medications you have taken in the past because many can affect your current dental treatments.  Your dentist may want to speak with your physician when planning dental treatment.  Although rare, some serious jaw problems can occur in people who’ve received bone-strengthening medications to treat cancer or osteoporosis.

These are only a few examples of how medications can affect your oral health.  Tell your dentist about any recent changes in your use of medications or in your overall general health.  Providing a current and accurate health history, including both prescriptions and over-the-counter products, is the best way to insure that your complete body health is maintained in the best and safest way possible.