medicine teeth

Medicine Teeth: Reduce Cavity Risk Caused by Medications for Kids

date: 02.24.2024


Dr. Lara Saleh

Lara Saleh, DDS, MS, is a board-certified, award-winning pediatric dentist and the Founder & Owner of Dr Toothfairy. Dr. Saleh is fluent in English, Arabic, and French. She is also the mother of two wonderful young children and loves helping them, and all of her young patients achieve lifelong oral health.

As parents, we often feel a sense of relief when our sick child finally agrees to take their medicine. But did you know that certain medications may cause what is known as “medicine teeth“? This condition can lead to tooth decay in young children if not properly managed. Today, we’ll explore this topic and provide you with strategies to protect your child’s smile.

What are “Medicine Teeth”?

Medicine teeth” is a term used to describe tooth decay in children caused by prolonged exposure to certain types of medicines. These medicines often contain sugars to make them more palatable to children. However, these sugars can feed the bacteria in the mouth, leading to tooth decay.

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Medicines That Increase the Risk of Cavities

Several types of medicines can increase the risk of cavities in children. These include:

  • Antibiotic syrups often contain sugar to make them more palatable for children, which can contribute to tooth decay if used frequently.
  • Antihistamines can reduce saliva production, leading to dry mouth. Saliva is essential for washing away food particles and buffering acids, so a reduction can heighten the risk of cavities.
  • Bronchodilator syrups used in treating asthma contain high levels of sugar, which can adhere to teeth and provide a food source for decay-causing bacteria.
  • Cough syrups, especially those intended for nighttime use, can coat the teeth with sugar and other cavity-causing agents, which is particularly harmful if teeth are not brushed after consumption.
  • Chewable vitamins that contain sugar and are taken daily can stick to teeth surfaces much like candy, increasing the potential for cavities.
  • Acidic medications, including some chewable aspirin and vitamin C tablets, can erode tooth enamel over time, weakening teeth and making them more susceptible to decay.
  •  Oral Corticosteroids used in treating asthma, allergies, and other conditions can reduce saliva production, leading to dry mouth.
  • Liquid medications, particularly those for long-term use or taken before bedtime, can pool around the teeth and create a breeding ground for decay-causing bacteria. 
  •  Sugar-free medications may also contain artificial sweeteners that can contribute to tooth decay if consumed in large quantities.

If your child requires these medicines for an extended period, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential impact on their oral health.

Preventing “Medicine Teeth”

The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent “medicine teeth”:

  1. Administer Medicine Before Brushing: If possible, give your child their medication before they brush their teeth at night. This will allow them to remove any residual sugar from their teeth.
  2. Encourage Thorough Brushing: Teach your child the importance of brushing twice a day, focusing on all areas of the mouth.
  3. Choose Sugar-Free Options: If available, opt for sugar-free versions of medications.
  4. Regular Dental Check-Ups: Regular visits to a pediatric dentist can help detect early signs of “medicine teeth” and prevent further damage.

Ask Dr. Toothfairy About Medicine Teeth

Understanding the risk of “medicine teeth” is crucial for protecting your child’s oral health. While medications are often necessary for treating illnesses, being aware of their potential impact on your child’s teeth can help you take preventative measures.

Dr. Lara, your trusted pediatric dentist at Dr Toothfairy, is here to guide you through the process and provide professional advice tailored to your child’s needs. Whether it’s finding sugar-free medication alternatives or demonstrating proper brushing techniques, Dr. Lara is committed to ensuring your child’s oral health.

Remember, early detection and prevention are key in combating “medicine teeth“. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Lara today, and take the first step towards safeguarding your child’s smile.

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