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A Prescription for Oral Health

Posted on Wednesday, February 16, 2022

You and your oral surgeon are partners in making sure you have the best medical and dental care. You do your part by eating a tooth-healthy diet, brushing and flossing as recommended, seeing your dentist regularly, and making an appointment with Dr. Holtzen when you need specialized care.

And one more essential step you can take for your dental health? Let your oral surgeon and your dentist know which prescriptions and over the counter medications you’re taking.

Medications Have Oral/Dental Side Effects

We’ve all grown used to hearing “Possible side effects include . . .” at the end of every pharmaceutical commercial. That’s because those unintended side effects can affect our health in any number of unexpected ways—and this includes oral health.

For example, a common side effect of many medications is xerostomia, or “dry mouth.” Because saliva helps keep our teeth and gums healthy by washing away food particles and oral bacteria and by reducing acidity in the mouth, a reduction in saliva production means a greater risk of cavities, gum disease, oral infections, denture discomfort, and bad breath.

Knowing a patient is taking one of the hundreds of medications that cause xerostomia allows a dentist to both monitor the condition and suggest the most effective treatment options to counteract these unpleasant symptoms.

Medications can cause not only dry mouth, but excessive gum tissue growth, oral sores, tooth discoloration, and changes in taste, among other side effects, so knowing which medications you are taking can provide essential information for your dentist to diagnose and treat these conditions.

Medications Interact

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are experts in diagnosing and treating medical conditions of the face, mouth, and jaw. Medication might be a necessary part of that treatment. Because certain drugs and supplements can affect the way our bodies metabolize, absorb, and respond to other medications, your oral surgeon needs to know which medicines you are taking to arrive at your best treatment options.

  • There are different classes of antibiotics used to treat oral infections. Knowing your medical history enables your oral surgeon to choose an antibiotic option that won’t interact with your other medications.
  • Local anesthetics such as lidocaine, which numb the area to be treated, can also interact with certain medications. Dr. Holtzen can prescribe an alternative local anesthetic or adjust the dosage as needed.
  • If you will be using sedation during your procedure, you have several options, including oral sedation, or IV sedation. Be sure we know about all of your medications beforehand because of possible interactions. Oral surgeons are experienced in all types of sedation, and can make changes to the type of sedation and/or the dosage as needed.

Medications Impact Treatment

It’s important for Dr. Holtzen to know if any of your medications will affect your treatment.

Anticoagulants, for example, are medications which prevent blood clots from forming, and are often prescribed for certain heart conditions, after joint replacement surgery, or for anyone at risk for developing clots. Because these medications prevent the blood from clotting normally, your oral surgeon will need to know if you are taking any such drugs before surgery.

If needed, Dr. Holtzen can work with you and your doctor to create a treatment plan which will be safe, effective, and designed to work with any of your medications. You should never discontinue taking your prescribed medications before dental work or surgery without medical approval, as this can be dangerous.

We need the most up to date information about your health to provide you with the best care possible. Knowing which medications you take and why you take them can help us:

  • Diagnose and treat any side effects from non-dental medications which have affected your oral health,
  • Prevent drug interactions from occurring, and
  • Tailor your treatment to your specific medical needs.

Your prescriptions, over the counter medications, and even herbal supplements and vitamins are essential information. It’s a good idea to make a list before your next appointment at our Missoula or Hamilton office so you have specific medications and their dosages at hand. It’s one small—but vital—step you can take to partner with Dr. Holtzen for your best medical and dental health.