Medications’ impact on oral health

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EndoCare’s Michael Sultan believes dental healthcare is about more than teeth...

For many patients, the concept of taking medication revolves around helping them feel better – which, in most cases, is the truth. They are nearly all aware of side-effects, but the number of people affected is relatively low.

However, most patients may not realise that some common medications can have a negative impact on their oral health – despite improving whatever ailment they originally complained of.

Indeed, there are many relatively common medications, including antacids, analgesics and antidepressants, that can cause xerostomia and exacerbate dental decay.

Ideally, these medications will not be taken by patients over the long term, which will counterbalance their negative effects – and with the proper oral health guidance from us, their dentists, patients should be able to prevent any adverse reactions over time.

However, the primary issues I think need highlighting – and I believe them to be twofold – is firstly the increasing dependence many patients have on relatively common medications and, secondly, that as the population continues to age, people’s over-dependence on such medications will become exponentially worse.

For example, the NHS has recently released data that shows prescriptions for antidepressants have reached an all-time high – an increase of over 100 per cent in the last ten years. Likewise, the use of powerful analgesics, including opioids, has almost doubled in the last fifteen years, showing a trend that could lead to even greater levels of regular use in the future.

People are living longer than ever before and, as we all know, the older we get, the more medication we are inevitably prescribed.

The pressure on the dental profession in the next few years is surely going to increase – and partly due to the medication our patients are taking just to keep themselves healthy.

Therefore, it is important that we, as healthcare professionals, take an interest in our patients' overall health. This includes providing them with oral healthcare advice appropriate to the medications they are taking, as well as adopting a more holistic approach to their care.

Indeed, by looking at their wider healthcare needs, we will be able to both improve their dental health and positively affect their general health. And – as we are becoming increasingly aware – these things are inextricably interlinked, making it even more vital that we take our entire patient, and not just their teeth, into account when they come into the surgery.

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Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash