Medications and Periodontal Health

Older adults are likely to take medications that can impact oral health and affect dental treatment. Hundreds of common medications – including antihistamines, diuretics, pain killers, high blood pressure medications and antidepressants – can cause side effects such as dry mouth, soft tissue changes, taste changes, and gingival overgrowth.

Numerous medications produce dry mouth or xerostomia, which can have a damaging effect on gum tissue and teeth. Dry mouth leaves the mouth without enough saliva to wash away food and neutralize plaque, leaving you more susceptible to tooth decay and periodontal disease. In addition, dry mouth can cause sore throat, problems with speaking, difficulty swallowing and hoarseness. Your dentist or periodontist can recommend various methods to restore moisture, including sugarless gum, oral rinses or artificial saliva products.

Other drugs may cause gingival enlargement, which means the gums grow over part of the tooth.

Medications with sugar as a main ingredient, such as over-the-counter cough drops and syrups, may increase plaque as well as enhance the ability of plaque to adhere to your teeth better.

Be sure to tell your periodontist and other dental professionals about any medications you are taking, including herbal remedies and over-the-counter medications.