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Medications

Certain medications can cause a dry mouth (xerostomia), as it affects the flow of saliva. You may notice this if you often wake up during the night craving a drink. The reason this happens is complex and different for various types of medications, however the consequences are simple and need to be discussed with you by your dentist or doctor.

Medications such as antihistamines and Ventolin (Salbutamol) puffers for example can cause dry mouth, however the effects are usually temporary, that is, saliva flow continues as normal shortly after the medication is taken. People taking puffers should rinse with water following their use; this will assist in clearing any remnants of the medication where it may cause a dry mouth or a fungal infection.

Other medications can have more severe effects on your teeth. These include anti-depressants and strong pain killers (e.g. morphine, oxycodone). In a matter of months after you are prescribed these sorts of medications, the healthiest mouth can turn into a sea of decay. If you are unsure of the effects of these medications, speak to your dentist.

Bisphosphonates are a class of drug used for the treatment of bone disorders such as bone cancer. They are also being used extensively to prevent osteoporosis, a common condition affecting mainly post menopausal women and elderly men.

Patients who are on high doses of this drug, especially when it is given via the blood stream (intravenously) are at risk of developing 'osteonecrosis of the jaw.’ This is a painful and debilitating condition where there is poor healing after minor oral surgery (e.g. tooth extraction) and the jaw bone eventually dies.

Some of the brand names of this drug include: Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva. Warfarin (e.g. brand name Coumadin) and aspirin are blood thinning medications. They may have been prescribed to you if you have problems with you blood vessels or heart. It is very important that you tell your dentist if you are taking these medications.

After an extraction or other dental procedure, these medications can cause you to bleed for longer than normal. DO NOT take yourself off this medication without first consulting your medical practitioner. Your dentist may need to speak to the doctor who prescribed these tablets to you to determine how you need to be managed. Often treatment may be performed without stopping your blood thinning drugs and other measures can be implemented to control any bleeding.

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