What asthma means for your oral health

asthma

Did you know that one in 12 Americans has asthma? This respiratory condition can increase your chances of developing cavities, gum disease and oral sores, but with the right preventive measure, you can lower these risks and maintain a healthy mouth.

Dental health risks

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common dental problems associated with asthma and how they occur.

Also, inhalers used to treat asthma may irritate the back roof of the mouth, causing a reddish lesion. If ignored, this area can become infected. This infection can spread and affect the throat and rest of the mouth, according to a study that appears in AGD's General Dentistry.

Dry mouth

People with asthma are more likely than the general population to suffer from dry mouth. This is because asthma restricts air flow, making people with the condition more likely to breathe through their mouth. What’s more, the medication in inhalers can further dry out the mouth.

Why is dry mouth a problem? Saliva helps wash away harmful bacteria. When your mouth is dry, it’s easier for plaque-causing bacteria to multiple. This increases your chance of bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.

Oral sores

Using an inhaler may irritate the back roof of the mouth, causing mouth ulcers and thrush.

Protect yourself

Follow these tips to protect your teeth and gums:

  • After you use your inhaler, make sure to rinse your mouth with water. It’s even better if you can brush your teeth, so try to keep a toothbrush handy.
  • Hydrate often. Drinking water throughout the day can counteract the effects of dry mouth.
  • Skip the sugar. Cutting back on sugary foods and drinks lowers your chance of developing cavities. You might want to swap out juice and soda for fluoridated tap water.
  • Talk to your dentist. Let your dentist know that you have asthma and provide details about the type of medication you use. Your dentist may be able to recommend strategies to improve your oral health.
  • Consider getting a different inhaler. Some types of asthma medication are associated with more cavities than others. Moreover, inhalers may even contain sugar to make the medicine taste sweeter. See if your doctor can help you find an inhaler that won’t put your teeth at risk.
  • Treat allergies. Asthma and allergies often go hand in hand. If you suffer from a stuffy nose frequently, talk to your dentist about treatment options. With proper treatment for your allergies, you’re less likely to breathe through your mouth.
  • Stay on top of your dental hygiene. Be vigilant about brushing and flossing.

Asthma and anxiety

Asthma attacks can be induced by stressful situations. If the thought of going to the dentist makes you nervous, you can try these strategies to curb your anxiety.

  • Slow down and breathe. Focus on breathing regularly and slowly during dental procedures. When you are nervous, you are more likely to hold your breath, which decreases oxygen levels and increases panic.
  • Avoid caffeine before a dental appointment. Caffeine can intensify anxiety.
  • Eat a proper meal. On the day of your appointment, make sure you eat a balanced meal. Opt for protein over sugar to stabilize your mood.
  • Plan carefully. Book your appointment for a time of day when you’re less likely to feel rushed. For some people, this might mean a Saturday or an early-morning appointment.

Always remember to bring your inhaler to your dental appointment in case of an asthma attack.

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Related reading

Last updated: May 2016

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