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Medications and dentistry

Posted 4/25/2012   Updated 4/25/2012 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Kristin Hays
66th Medical Squadron, Dental Flight

4/25/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- It is very important to tell dental team members, to include the dentist, hygienist or assistant, about any medicines a patient is taking, whether it is prescription, over the counter or herbal supplements.

People often feel that medicines won't affect their teeth. That is not necessarily the case. For example, while a heart or blood pressure pill may not have a direct effect on the teeth themselves, keep in mind that the teeth are located in the mouth. The mouth is connected to the rest of the body by the bloodstream and all medications that one takes will circulate through all the tissues in the mouth. These medications can affect the oral tissues in a variety of ways.

One of the most common medication side effects is dry mouth, the result of a decreased flow of saliva. This increases the risk of tooth decay since saliva helps keep food from collecting around the teeth and neutralizes the acids produced by dental plaque. Those acids ultimately damage the hard surfaces of the teeth.

Anyone who experiences dry mouth due to a particular medicine they are taking and cannot change the medicine may consider looking for non-prescription saliva substitutes available at most drug stores.

In addition, the medication one takes may directly affect their dental treatment. The dentist may have to use a different type of local anesthetic, or may prescribe a different pain medication or antibiotic so as not to have an adverse drug interaction with any drugs.

In some cases, a patient may have to stop taking certain medications before a particular dental procedure. This will require the dentist and physician to work together. All of these situations are extremely important safety factors for patients.

Finally, over-the-counter supplements should also be included on a person's medication list. Although they may be marketed as organic, herbal supplements contain ingredients to extend their shelf life, to make them chemically stable in tablet form and to make the tablet palatable to swallow.

The bottom line is that herbal supplements are still chemicals. All chemicals will interact with other chemicals in the body whether they are organic or synthesized in a laboratory. Furthermore, many herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which may make it difficult to determine their exact composition.

It is recommended that patients bring in the container for any supplements they are taking to any medical and dental appointments so the supplements can be recorded.

Informing the dental health care team about any and all medicines the patient is taking will ensure they receive safe and effective dental treatment. Anyone with questions may contact the dental clinic at 781-225-6324.

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