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7 Medications That May Be Causing Your Teeth to Decay

7 Medications That May Be Causing Your Teeth to Decay


You may not realize it, but many common medications may be doing a number on your oral health. From over-the-counter drugs to prescription treatments, many of the medications you take can end up causing serious damage to your teeth, which can leave you wondering how you’re going to cope when you need the medications to stay healthy.

Common Medication Side Effects

Certain medications can cause altered taste, dry mouth (xerostomia), oral thrush, burning mouth, tender gums, gum disease, and even tooth decay. You may experience abnormal gum bleeding, bone loss, cavities, enlarged gums, mouth sores, inflammation, and discoloration. The worst part? Narrowing down which issues are caused by medications can be tricky.

For example, more than 400 medications have been clinically proven to cause dry mouth. In fact, dry mouth is one of the most common medication side effects. While a nuisance, dry mouth generally isn’t a major concern until you realize that it is a major contributor to gum infections and tooth decay.

The following medications are linked to dry mouth and, in turn, are associated with tooth decay:


Antacids such as Tums, Prilosec, and Alka-Seltzer can weaken your teeth and lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Not only do antacids cause dry mouth, but they’re often full of sugar. Chewable antacids get stuck between the teeth and, after prolonged exposure, result in cavities.

Cutting down on antacids, choosing a sugar-free version, and practicing proper dental care that includes flossing will help prevent further damage.

Pain Medications

Pain meds and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) have also been shown to cause tooth decay as a result of dry mouth. Typically, popping an Excedrin for a headache every once in awhile won’t cause problems, but prolonged use of OxyContin, Tramadol, and similar pain meds have resulted in severe dental issues in chronic pain populations. To combat this, sip water throughout the day, chew sugarless gum, practice good dental hygiene, and use a moisturizing mouth spray.

Antihistamines and Decongestants

Antihistamines block histamine receptors to prevent allergic reactions, but that same effect occurs elsewhere in the body, such as the mouth and tongue. Simply put, antihistamines block the release of saliva, resulting in dry mouth. Decongestants, although they work differently, are also commonly used to treat allergies and the common cold. Cough syrups, in particular, offer another level of damage in that they’re highly acidic, which can lead to tooth erosion. Using a fluoride toothpaste after taking cough syrup can help prevent this erosion.

High Blood Pressure Medication

Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are all commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure – and they also cause dry mouth that can increase your chances of developing tooth decay. Some drug options such as Lisinopril have shown fewer oral side effects, so if you’ve noticed tooth decay or an increase in cavities since going on blood pressure medication, ask your doctor about switching.


A 2016 pilot study from the University at Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine has observed an association between antidepressant use and dental implant failure. While this new information needs to be confirmed by large-scale studies, antidepressant use has already been linked to bone metabolism loss for more than a decade, which can increase a person’s chances of developing rampant tooth decay, bad breath, gum disease, oral yeast infections, and other oral health concerns.

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Combining antidepressants with blood pressure medication also increased the likelihood of patients developing low pressure while lying down, which could cause dizziness during dental procedures. This is why it’s incredibly important to give your dentist a complete list of medications for every visit.


Corticosteroids are used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma, COPD, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Long-term corticosteroid use, however, has been shown to cause dental pulp calcification. In one study, a patient’s teeth was x-rayed before starting corticosteroids.

After three years, pulp stones developed. Pulp diseases can cause sudden, intense pain, mouth infections, dental abscess, and a hardening of the pulp tissue that’s so severe a root canal is required. Avoiding these problems while on corticosteroids can be difficult, which is why it’s important to keep an open dialogue with both your doctor and dentist.

Getting regular preventative dental care can go a long way in ensuring your medications don’t result in tooth decay and costly dental treatments. Your dentist can also discuss ways to ensure those medications aren’t causing damage between dental visits. While certain medications can’t be avoided, keeping your mouth hydrated and sticking to a proper daily routine can ensure you ward off any further damage.

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. #2016-21813 (exp. 4/18)

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