Medications and oral health

Some medicines can affect oral health due to high levels of sugar. If you are on long-term medication, you may be at greater risk of developing tooth decay due to using sweetened medications.

  • The sugar contained in liquid medications, cough drops, vitamins, antacid tablets and anti-fungal agents can lead to tooth decay.
  • Inhalers (particularly those containing steroids) can cause erosion of the tooth enamel.

Dry mouth

Dry mouth is a potential side effect of numerous medications (prescribed and over-the-counter). Dry mouth occurs due to the reduction in saliva flow. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.

Medications that can cause dry mouth include:

  • antihistamines
  • decongestants
  • painkillers
  • medications prescribed for high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease
  • muscle relaxants
  • drugs for urinary incontinence
  • anti-depressants and many others.

What you can do

  • Check labels to determine whether you are taking a sugar-based medication.
  • Discuss medications with a general practitioner, pharmacist or oral health professional.
  • Ask your doctor about the sugar content of medications or the effect on saliva flow.
  • Limit the use of, or request alternatives to, sugar-based medications when appropriate. Never change medications without speaking to your doctor first.
  • If sugar-based medication is used, rinse your mouth with water immediately after taking the medication.