Medications and oral health

Many common medications have side effects which can impact oral health.

Medication Possible side effect Effect on oral health

Medications that can cause dry mouth include;

  • antihistamines
  • decongestants
  • painkillers
  • medications prescribed for high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease
  • muscle relaxants
  • urinary incontinence drugs
  • anti-depressants
  • many others
Dry mouth (reduced saliva flow) Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease
Cough drops, vitamins, antacid tablets and anti-fungal agents Some contain sugar Increased risk of tooth decay
Inhalers (particularly those containing steroids) Damage tooth enamel Increased risk of tooth decay
Some antibiotics Disturb the natural mouth environment Thrush (fungal infection)

If you assist someone who takes medication, support them to:

  • Ask their doctor, pharmacist or oral health professional if the medication is likely to affect their oral health.
  • Choose sugar-free medicines wherever possible.
  • Rinse their mouth with water after taking medication which has sugar in it, or contains steroids.

Never offer medicine in a sweet food or drink (eg jam).

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