Why Does My Dentist Need To Know: The Medications I Take

As with any other medical practice, your dental office has you fill out a health history, but you may be wondering why we ask so many questions.  In this series of blogs, we hope to help you understand how important it is to be open, honest and specific when giving up your personal information.

Prescribed Medications

You would expect your family doctor to want a list of the pills you take because he or she may be the one overseeing or changing them.  Sometimes we catch people off guard when requesting that same list.  If you read the potential side effects of each medication, you can begin to understand how they can alter your dental health.  Many of them cause xerostomia, otherwise know as dry mouth, which in turn puts you at a higher risk for decay.  Saliva is vital for keeping your mouth moist.  It also provides the teeth with a protective coating full of minerals and enzymes that help with digestion and pH control.  Another common problem caused by prescriptions is thinning of the blood and an increase in inflammation. Unusual bleeding and an overreaction to bacteria can lead to periodontal problems beyond your control.  It’s our job to set up a treatment plan based on your unique set of circumstances.  All of the prescriptions you take help give us an accurate picture of you and your total body health.

Over The Counter Medications and Herbal Supplements

It’s common for patients to leave vitamins and minerals off of the paperwork section labeled “Medications”.  Because they are sold over the counter, we tend to assume they are safe and effective for everyone.  Going back to the issue of dry mouth, imagine the shelves full of antihistamines and nasal sprays.  Almost all of them cause dry eyes, nose and mouth.  This may not be a problem in the short term, but taking them for long periods could increase your chances of decay and sensitivity.  There are several strategies for dealing with dry mouth, but seeing your dentist and/or hygienist for suggestions is the best way to go.  You may need to get your teeth cleaned more often and add a fluoride regimen to your plan.

Other possible side effects from OTC supplements could include blood thinning, taste alterations, staining and an increase in tartar formation.  In recent years, liquid vitamins have increased in popularity because of their fast absorption and ease of use.  Be careful though, because the high acid levels can actually leave your teeth in a weakened state if you don’t rinse your mouth with water afterward.

Recreational Drugs

Using Methamphetamines causes meth mouth and unfortunately, it is one of the best examples of how quickly a person can ruin their teeth.  Drug users often go days binging on sugar rich foods and the common ingredients like antifreeze, drain cleaner, lye and lantern fuel are highly destructive.  But it’s not just hard core street drugs that hurt your teeth.  Marijuana, tobacco, caffeine and even alcohol can be placed into this category based on exposure and dosage.  So, remember to include these habits next time you are filling out your paperwork.  Your personal information is always confidential and necessary.

Because your mouth is connected to the rest of your body, it’s important to help your dental team accurately pinpoint your risk for decay and periodontal disease.  Anything you eat or drink will play a direct role in your long-term success.  Our best recommendation is to keep a current list of medications and all over the counter items you take in your purse or wallet.  This way, you don’t have to try and remember them all and all of your doctors will have all the information they need.