What medication can mean for your mouth


Whether you’re taking prescription drugs or herbal supplements, medication can take a toll on your teeth.

Here are some of the most common side effects and which treatments are to blame.

Dry mouth

A decrease in saliva increases your risk of oral infections and tooth decay.

Medicinal culprits:

  • antidepressants
  • antihistamines
  • asthma inhalers
  • diuretics
  • anti-anxiety drugs
  • anticonvulsants
  • decongestants
  • muscle relaxants
  • narcotic painkillers


Sugar, syrups and other sweeteners in medication can put your teeth at risk. Always read the labels when selecting over-the-counter medicines, and don’t forget to rinse or brush after your dose.

Medicinal culprits:

  • cough syrups
  • cough drops
  • vitamins
  • antacid tablets
  • liquid medications

Overgrowth of gum tissue

Gingival enlargement causes painful, inflamed gums that grow over the teeth.

Medicinal culprits:

  • anti-seizure medications
  • immunosuppressant drugs given after organ transplants
  • calcium channel blockers (used to treat high blood pressure, migraines and Raynaud’s syndrome)

Mouth ulcers

These painful sores generally appear on the inside of the cheeks.

Medicinal culprits:

  • aspirin
  • ibuprofen
  • beta blockers (used to prevent heart attacks and treat hypertension)
  • nicorandil (used to treat chest pain) penicillin
  • penicillin
  • chemotherapy drugs

Enamel stains

Your pearly whites may significantly less white as a result of these medications.

Medicinal culprits:

  • antihistamines
  • antipsychotic drugs
  • drugs for high blood pressure
  • tetracycline and doxycycline (antibiotics)
  • antiseptic mouth rinses that contain chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium chloride


Yeast infections of the mouth appear as white fungus on the tongue and throat.

Medicinal culprits:

  • antibiotics
  • birth control pills
  • corticosteroids

Loss of bone tissue

By leaching minerals from your bone, some medications can increase your chance of losing teeth.

Medicinal culprits:

  • bisphosphonates (used to treat cancer and prevent osteoporosis)
  • antacids that contain aluminum
  • steroids
  • anti-seizure medications
  • antidepressants
  • hormone blockers (used to treat hormone-linked cancers and endometriosis)

Abnormal bleeding

Blood-thinning medications can cause problems during oral surgery, periodontal treatment or even flossing.

Medicinal culprits:

  • aspirin
  • antacids that contain aluminum
  • anti-stroke drugs
  • heart disease medications

Your dentist will be able to help you minimize these side effects and prevent damage to your oral health. Always give your dentist a complete list of medications you’re taking, both prescription and over-the-counter.

Related reading:

Published: September 2015

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