Important To Keep Your Dentist Updated On Your Medications

Posted on Mar 09, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

So what does the prescription you take for high blood pressure have to do with your dental care? And, why should you bother to tell us if you’re taking a supplement for anxiety?

Many medications don’t interact well with other medications, and even some supplements. It is important that your dentist and dental specialist have an up-to-date list of ALL medications you take. Here is why:

Medications such as Heparin or Warfarin help to reduce blood clotting, which lowers your risk for stroke and heart disease. That’s good. However, it is important that your dentist know about these since they can cause bleeding problems during oral surgery or periodontal treatment.

For those who take medications that help to strengthen bones, these have been associated with a rare but serious condition called osteo-necrosis of the jaw. Simply put, it refers to death of the bone. These prescriptions include Fosamax, Actonel, Atelvia, Didronel and Boniva and are taken to help prevent or treat osteoporosis. There are also versions administered by injection, including Boniva IV, Reclast and Prolia.

Osteo-necrosis of the jaw commonly occurs after dental procedures (tooth extraction, implant placement). Over 90 percent of those who have experienced osteo-necrosis are those who have taken the medication in repeated high doses due to cancer or other diseases. However, 10 percent who experienced osteo-necrosis were taking much lower doses, mostly intended to treat osteoporosis. Those who are taking these medications or have taken them within the past year should reveal this to their dentist.

Certain medications also affect the ability to taste, including cardiovascular agents, central nervous system stimulants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, respiratory inhalants and nicotine skin patches.

Some medications can cause the development of oral sores, inflammation or discoloration of gum tissues in the mouth. These oral sores or discolorations may arise from taking medications for blood pressure, oral contraceptives and chemotherapy agents. Keeping your dentist aware that you are taking these drugs helps he or she monitor these areas closely and appropriately. Some spots and discolorations in the mouth can actually be symptoms of oral cancer. When your dentist is aware of the side effects of the medications you take, you can be adequately monitored without being treated for pseudo illnesses.

Dry mouth is a common side effect of a wide variety of medications, including those prescribed and over-the-counter. These include antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence,
anti-depressants and many others. Drying causes the soft tissues in the mouth to become inflamed and makes you more susceptible to infection. When saliva flow is depleted, your risk for tooth decay and gum disease increases.

Supplements that may seem unconnected to your oral health can actually effect your care more than you realize. It is important for your dentist to know if you take…
 • Ginkgo biloba or evening primrose – These herbs can reduce your blood’s ability to clot, possibly leading to excessive bleeding during and/or after a dental procedure.
 • St. John’s Wort – This herb, which is often taken to reduce anxiety, can interfere with the metabolism of other medications, including sedatives, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisone and Decadron. When combined with St. John’s Wort, these drugs can be less effective. On the other hand, narcotics such as codeine, Vicodin and oxycodone can become more potent when taken with St. John’s Wort. This can lead to sleepiness, lethargy and dizziness.
• Valerian – This herb has mild sedative effects. If your dentist prescribes drugs for anxiety or painkillers containing codeine, the effects of both together are greatly accentuated. This can lead to severe sleepiness, lethargy and dizziness that can last into the next day.
• Calcium and magnesium – When these supplements are combined with certain antibiotics, they can decrease the antibiotics being properly absorbed. This can compromise your ability to fight off infection.

Your oral health is an important part of your overall health. Always keep your dental care givers updated on your health status and the medications (and supplements) you take.

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