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Common Medications Can Have Oral Side Effects

Many medications have side effects, and some can even affect oral health.

In most cases, the oral side effects of medications resolve shortly after you stop taking the medication. However, the American Dental Association encourages patients to talk to their dentists about prescription and over-the-counter medications to learn more about how to limit the side effects on oral health.

Some common oral side effects include:

Dry mouth — antihistamines and other drugs can cause a decrease in saliva, leaving your mouth prone to soft tissue inflammation, pain and infection. Tooth decay can also develop, and chronic dry mouth can create problems for people who wear dentures. Alleviate dry mouth by drinking more water or using sugarless lozenges or gum to stimulate the flow of saliva. Artificial saliva or, in some cases, medication may be recommended by your dentist or physician.

Gum tissue overgrowth — also referred to as "gingival hyperplasia," gum tissue overgrowth is associated with anti-seizure medications, immunosupressant drugs such as those taken by organ transplant patients and calcium channel blockers taken by heart patients. Studies suggest that gum tissue overgrowth can be controlled if meticulous oral hygiene is started at the same time or before medication is taken. Tissue overgrowth can complicate oral hygiene. Sometimes, a gingivectomy (a procedure used to remove excess tissue) may be necessary.

Soft-tissue reactions — oral sores, inflammation or discoloration of the soft tissue can result from taking medications prescribed for blood pressure control, immunosuppressive agents, oral contraceptives and some chemotherapeutic agents. Your dentist may recommend an oral hygiene program to limit the discomfort associated with such side effects.

Abnormal bleeding — reduced blood clotting is a result of aspirin and prescribed anticoagulants, like heparin or warfarin. These medications are prescribed to treat strokes or heart disease, but can cause bleeding problems during oral surgery or periodontal treatment. If you're having dental treatment, talk to your dentist about these medications, especially if the dental procedure involves bleeding.

Tooth discoloration — intake of tetracycline products when teeth are developing can cause permanent staining in those teeth. Cosmetic dentistry techniques like veneers, crowns, bonding procedures, or, in some cases, bleaching may be used to lighten teeth with tetracycline stains.

© 2003 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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