Now that winter’s officially here, many of us will be taking medications to ease the symptoms of cold and flu. Although most of these medications are safe and effective, they frequently bring on symptoms that cause discomfort or even concern. Here’s an overview of how cold and flu medications can affect your teeth and gums, and what you can do about it.
1. Metallic Taste in Your Mouth
It’s not uncommon for cold and flu medications to leave a metallic taste in your mouth. Known as dysgeusia, or altered taste, this common problem should go away shortly after your body breaks down the medicine you just took. If it doesn’t, confirm that you took the correct dosage.
Also, sometimes a metallic taste in your mouth is a sign of dental problems such as tooth infections, gingivitis (mild gum disease), and periodontitis (more advanced stages of gum disease). If you are concerned about these possibilities, consult with your local dentist. Medications and supplements which can cause a metallic taste include:
- Zinc lozenges
- Calcium supplements
- Iron supplements
- Vitamins with heavy metals such as zinc, copper, or chromium
2. Dry Mouth
Antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers cause dry mouth, known as xerostomia, because they inhibit saliva being released into your mouth. This feature of cold and flu remedies leaves your mouth dry, making it more susceptible to germs and cavity-causing bacteria which can affect your teeth, gums, and general oral health. Here are some things you can do to combat dry mouth:
- Suck on sugar-free candies, mints, or lozenges, or chew sugar-free gum.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Take the remedies with a meal, which will stimulate saliva production and help hydrate your mouth.
- As able, snack on natural foods that hydrate your mouth, such as apples, celery, or carrots.
3. Cavities and Enamel Erosion
All that sugar in cough syrups, lozenges, and cough drops helps the medicine go down – but it also causes tooth decay. There are some good sugar-free substitutes that are now used in cough remedies: xylitol, which is believed to break down bacteria that attack your enamel when it appears as the first ingredient, and sucralose, another popular alternative. If you can’t find a medicine with an appropriate sugar substitute, rinse your mouth out after taking a dose. Here are some additional steps you can take to protect your teeth against sugary remedies:
- Take your remedies with meals, and brush afterward.
- Rinse your mouth out after consuming sugary medicines. Wait half an hour (in case the medicine is acidic) and then brush.
- Opt for taking remedies in pill or gel-caps instead of liquid medications.
- Chew sugar-free gum.
At Fisher Pointe Dental, we’re leaders in educating patients on the importance of dental health. If you have any questions about how flu and cold medications can affect your teeth and gums, feel free to contact us.