Gum Swelling And Severe Tooth Decay Traced To Prescription Drugs

The dentist was not expecting to see such a large black hole on the elderly man’s front tooth. Because the man almost threw up on his prescribed nitroglycerine tablets when placed under his tongue, he stuck them under his upper lip instead. These tablets caused that very big hole in his tooth.

Hundreds of medicines that Americans take every day, from the country’s most popular blood pressure pills to chewable vitamin C tablets, can cause serious tooth decay and gum disease, oral medicine experts told the American Dental Association. Either doctors have no clue to these dental side effects or they don’t let their patients know, say the specialists.

We make dentists know how important it is to ask their patients about medical concerns and medications, says one dentist and pharmacologist at the University of Buffalo. As you look through each medicine, think about how they can affect the patient’s dental health, he tells dentists.

These facts are presented by oral medicine specialists who handled classes at this week’s ADA meeting. Up to 20 percent of patients taking calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure and heart disease suffer gum swelling. Inflammation makes openings that allow bacteria to get in and cause gum swelling and disease. Some of these medicines are taken by most Americans.

Swelling is the effect of certain drugs for epilepsy as well as amphetamines. Cyclosporin is a drug used to prevent organ rejection and this can cause massive gum overgrowth. It looks like gum inflammation caused by leukemia, he said.

Dry mouth, an apparent side effect of 400 drugs, is also a side effect of radiation treatment for cancer. When people don’t have enough saliva, they may suffer cavities, excess plaque, and fungal infections. The dentist would usually tell the patient’s doctor that if possible, he should change the calcium channel blockers prescription and switch it with another heart medicine.

If it is impossible, the patients must see the dentist frequently and their plaque buildup must be monitored. A dentist with a photograph of a patient with damaged teeth and gums said that such side effects would be no worry as long as the mouth is kept clean. There will be no problem if there is no plaque, he said.

A photograph he showed is that of a Dilantin patient with gums so swollen that only the tips of the front teeth could be seen. This condition could be minimized if the patient on Dilantin would see the dentist in 10 days so that the gum pockets could be treated, he said. The problem isn’t just prescription drugs. An active ingredient in over the counter lozenges, cough drops, and antacids is sugar.

He mentioned a woman who always showed up with new cavities. She avoided sweets and brushed always, so dentists were left wondering why this happens. Then the receptionist observed her taking in pills, which turned out to be antacids which she consumed in large amounts a day.