Antidepressant? Dry Mouth? Tooth Decay?
You probably can say with near certainty that either you or someone that you care about is on an antidepressant right now. According to a recent study, a full one-sixth of adults in America are currently on such drugs. When you think about antidepressants, you probably imagine the effect that they have on your mental health, or minor side effects, like weight gain. What you might not imagine is that psychotropic drugs have the potential to cause significant damage to your teeth. Surprisingly, the most frequent culprit is dry mouth.
One of the most common side effects of many medications, and one of the most annoying, dry mouth seems like it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, saliva helps to regulate bacteria in the mouth, and when the mouth is dry, then inflammation and infection become more frequent. The dry tissue is also more easily irritated, making infection more common.
The question is, how does dry mouth cause tooth decay? Saliva helps to wash away food debris and reduce plaque. If dry mouth is left untreated teeth will start to decay and gum disease can develop.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI,) atypical antidepressants, and tricyclic antidepressants. Also, blood pressure medications, antacids, decongestants, and pain medications can cause dry mouth as well.
How to Prevent Damage
Thankfully, there are a lot of common sense things that can prevent damage from becoming severe. First, make sure that you drink plenty of water – at least eight glasses per day – to encourage more saliva development and keep the mouth moist. Also, make sure you maintain good dental hygiene practices, including brushing your teeth twice a day and visiting a dentist twice a year. Avoid caffeine and nicotine, and if needed, eat hydrating snacks or use a hydrating mouthwash.
Antidepressants are wonderful drugs that have saved many lives and made life easier for many more. But, even the best of medications come with some drawbacks. Thankfully, dry mouth is easy to get under control. If the above tips don’t help, consult your dentist. Dry mouth is one of the most common dental concerns, and there are plenty of ways to address it.