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Talk to your dentist about drug prescriptions

Do you take any prescription or nonprescription drugs? What about your children, your parents and grandparents?

Medications can have an impact on oral health-even vitamin supplements and herbs. That's why drug use is a topic everyone should discuss with his or her dentist.

A survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that within an 18-month period, more than 80 percent of adults in the United States took at least one medication in the week before the survey was conducted. Twenty-five percent took at least five medications. Both the percentages of people taking medications and the quantity of medications taken were higher among those 65 years and older.

As the population ages and more medications become available, drug-related oral health problems stand to increase. Among them are effects on plaque composition, salivary flow and taste.

One of the most common adverse effects on oral tissue is caused by more than 400 medications. Xerostomia, more commonly known as dry mouth, is a side effect of such commonly taken medicines as antacids, anti-allergy medication, diuretics, blood pressure pills, antidepressants and sedatives.

Saliva plays a major role in protecting tissues in the mouth. Patients with dry mouth often suffer from excess plaque formation and all of its associated problems, which include cavities and gum disease.

One of the most serious side effects of some medications is abnormal bleeding during oral surgery or periodontal treatment. Reduced blood clotting can occur in people taking prescribed anticoagulants, such as warfarin, over-the-counter drugs including aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as herbs and supplements including ginkgo biloba, garlic and ginger.

A relationship exists between many drugs and oral health problems. The American Dental Association strongly encourages people to talk to their dentists about prescription and over-the-counter medications they are taking. By taking the side effects of medications into account, your dentist can better diagnose and treat your oral health problems.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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