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What Your Doctor Won't Tell You About Your Prescription Medications - Part 1

Part one in a two part series.

 

Are you taking more than two prescription medications a day? I’m about to share something with you that your doctor probably didn’t clue you in on whenever they prescribed that next medication for you.

I have patients that are on two, three, five, seven prescription medications. Their doctor never remembers to tell them the important fact I’m about to unveil, because they’re focusing on making sure that your drugs are not interacting with each other. If you’ve ever seen a commercial on TV for a prescription and you listen closely, they always go through all of the side effects. Even though 90% of prescription medications have this specific side effect, it’s rarely listed. I’m talking about dry mouth. Ninety percent of medications cause dry mouth. What’s the big deal about that? From a dental standpoint, it’s a huge deal, and I’m going to tell you why.

In addition to being very uncomfortable, dry mouth makes it very difficult to eat and can also affect the saliva composition in your mouth. The condition also makes it difficult to wear prosthesis like a denture or a partial denture, and it can actually alter the taste of your food. Dry mouth is definitely a major inconvenience, but what’s the big deal for your dental health? Well, since dry mouth causes your saliva composition to change, you’re going to be at risk for gum disease, and for very rapid dental decay. Your saliva has natural cavity-fighting properties, and when dry mouth sets in, that chemical composition changes. In turn, your body’s natural defenses that protect against cavities goes way, way down.

I see this issue come up with a lot of my patients that are on multiple medications. Six months ago, they were totally fine, then all of a sudden they have an enormous cavity. We compare the notes and the x-rays from their last visit, and it’s like where did this come from? I will ask, “Have you started taking any new prescriptions lately? Has your diet changed? Did your doctor put you on a new prescription?” Nine times out of ten they’ve started a new prescription medication within the last six months and their saliva composition has indeed changed. Next, I ask, “Do you feel like you’re not making enough saliva? Do you feel like that’s decreased in the last six months or so?” And they say, “Well yeah, as a matter of fact, that’s true. I do feel like I have a dry mouth.” So what’s the big deal?

Cavities can go from zero to a big problem in about six months. If I’m not seeing a patient every six months, something very small and manageable can turn into a huge problem. This is especially true for expensive restorations like crowns or bridges. If you get a cavity under a tooth that’s connected to a crown or a bridge, I’m going to have to take that crown or bridge off and you’re going to have to get a brand new one. There is no other way for me to make sure that all of the decay is cleaned out of the tooth. Crowns and bridges are sometimes made out of metal, and I can’t see through them on an x-ray, which means I can’t tell exactly what’s going on underneath without taking it off.

I hate to say this, but since we can’t see through a crown with the x-rays, sometimes the teeth are not savable underneath. Sometimes they look like bread pudding because they’re so mushy, and there’s not enough solid tooth for me to connect a crown or bridge to. If your doctor neglects to tell you that a lot of your prescribed medications can cause dry mouth, and then all of a sudden you have a lot of dental problems, it can be very costly. As we all know, dental insurance is not all it’s cracked up to be. 

Continue reading part two here.

 

Dr. Cyndi Blalock is a general dentist practicing in St. Peters, MO.  Her office Cardinal Dental is known for redefining what a dental experience should be.  She is accepting new patients, and can be reached at 636-441-7440.