Published On: Sat, Jul 9th, 2016

Xerostomia Alert: Prescription Medicines and Your Oral Health

Dry mouth is a much more severe medical condition than most people realize. It’s sometimes caused by other medications you might be taking. Here’s the risks you face and what you can do about them.

Some Medications That Cause Problems

Some medications can cause serious health problems, and result in dry mouth. Some of these include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Alzheimer’s Disease drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Parkinson’s Disease drugs
  • Diuretics
  • Seizure drugs
  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Lung inhalers
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Beta blockers
  • Heart rhythm drugs
  • Anti-nausea drugs
  • Narcotic pain drugs
  • Scopolamine
  • Anti-spasm drugs

Prescription Drugs and Dental Health Problems

Unfortunately dry mouth isn’t just an annoyance. It can become a serious medical problem. One reason for this is saliva in the mouth helps flush out bacteria and pathogens. It also mineralizes the mouth, helping to provide a healthy environment for beneficial bacteria.

photo dozenist

photo dozenist

Dry mouth isn’t the only dental health problem caused by prescription meds. It’s the most common, however. There are a few other problems that result from taking medications. These include fungal infections, swelling of gum tissue, inflammation, and oral sores and discoloration of enamel.

The Role Of Saliva

The role of saliva is pretty complex. Most people only pay attention to their mouth when they’re hungry or maybe in the morning when they brush. But, saliva is also responsible for breaking down starches into maltose and dextrin, which initiates fat digestion. It also begins the digestion process. Insufficient levels will compromise digestion.

Calcium and phosphate in your saliva also promotes remineralization of enamel. Diminished salivary flow will reduce mineral availability and can weaken your teeth. Proteins in saliva provide special peptides that are protective. These include protective statherins, which prevent calcium and phosphate precipitation. Finally, saliva contains lubricating mucins to help make a smooth and slick surface in the mouth.

Saliva can neutralize organic acids produced in biofilms, which is helpful in protecting you from pathogenic bacteria. Inadequate saliva lowers the pH of your mouth. Saliva also distributes and recycles fluoride. Saliva protects hard and soft tooth structures from bacteria, while discouraging the growth of acid-promoting bacteria.

Before you vomit, the brain sends a signal to increase salivary production which decreases oral acidity and protects your mouth from acidic emesis. Finally, saliva is thought to have immunological purposes in humans.


Decreased salivary production causes a lot of symptoms. You’ll end up with viscous and sticky saliva, a dry or burning sensation in the mouth and on the lips and throat. You’ll have cracked lips and commissures. You will also have rough, fissured, mouth with biofilm on your tongue. You may suffer from severe halitosis. Some people experience impaired taste.

These problems may also cause infections, like thrush infections, allow prosthetics to abrade, and lead to changes in your own dietary preferences and unwanted weight loss because you’re not eating enough food.

Not only that, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies if you’re not getting sufficient vitamins and minerals. Some experts believe more than 700 medications, both OTC and prescription, cause or exacerbate dry mouth. Most of them affect the sympathetic nervous system, thicken limit the quality of saliva, as well as the flow.

There are also non-medicinal causes of dry mouth, which include accidental or surgical nerve damage to the oral cavity, and tobacco use, facial or neck radiation and chemotherapy.

Treatment Options

If you’re experiencing bleeding gums, see an emergency dentist in San Diego immediately. If it’s not an emergency, there are many treatment options available that are long-term.

Treatment for dry mouth includes diet counseling and instruction, daily self-oral examinations, regular prophylaxis, controlling your home’s humidity levels, avoiding tobacco, caffeine and acidic drinks, including alcohol, application of chlorhexidine-thymol to root surfaces and sealants to pits.

Some people find relief with simple measures like chewing sugar-free gum, swishing the mouth several times a day with xylitol (a sugar alcohol commonly available in drug stores and specialty shops), sucking on xylitol candies, and sipping water throughout the day.

You can also apply vitamin E-rich oil to dry lips every day, throughout the day, to promote moisturizing.

Dry mouth can be problematic, but when you take it seriously it doesn’t have to control your life. Contact your dentist about whether a particular treatment is appropriate for your situation. Not all of them are, and even good treatments may need to be cycled on and off over periods of time. Don’t worry about whether you have short-term dry mouth, as long as you are being monitored by a dentist and are following protocols recommended by him or her.

Guest Author :

Mike Plambeck is a dental marketing professional who writes about the world of online dental marketing as well as educational dental health topics. He lives in Lincoln, NE and raises 2 kids, Noah and Dani, along with his wife Marissa. Keep up with Mike on Twitter.

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