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Medications and what they can mean for your mouth

Medications and what they can mean for your mouth

Whether you’re taking prescription drugs or herbal supplements, medication can take a toll on your teeth.

Here are some of the most common side effects.

Dry mouth 

A decrease in saliva increases your risk of oral infections and tooth decay. 

Medicinal culprits: 

  • Antidepressants 
  • Antihistamines 
  • Asthma inhalers 
  • Diuretics 
  • Anti-anxiety drugs 
  • Anticonvulsants 
  • Decongestants 
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Narcotic painkillers


Sugar, syrups and other sweeteners in medication can put your teeth at risk. Always read the labels when selecting over-the-counter medicines, and don’t forget to rinse or brush after your dose. 

Medicinal culprits:

  • Cough syrups
  • Cough drops
  • Chewable or gummy vitamins
  • Antacid tablets
  • Liquid medications

Overgrowth of gum tissue 

Gingival enlargement causes painful, inflamed gums that grow over the teeth.

Medicinal culprits: 

  • Anti-seizure medications 
  • Immunosuppressant drugs given after organ transplants 
  • Calcium channel blockers (used to treat high blood pressure, migraines and Raynaud’s syndrome)

Mouth ulcers

These painful sores generally appear on the inside of the cheeks.

Medicinal culprits:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Beta blockers (used to prevent heart attacks and treat hypertension)
  • Nicorandil (used to treat chest pain)
  • Penicillin
  • Chemotherapy drugs


Mouth ulcers

Enamel stains

Your pearly whites may appear significantly less white as a result of these medications. 

Medicinal culprits: 

  • Antihistamines
  • Antipsychotic drugs
  • Drugs for high blood pressure 
  • Tetracycline and doxycycline (antibiotics) 
  • Antiseptic mouth rinses that contain chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium chloride


Yeast infections of the mouth appear as white fungus on the tongue and throat.

Medicinal culprits:

  • Antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Corticosteroids


Loss of bone tissue

By leaching minerals from your bone, some medications can increase your chance of losing teeth.

Medicinal culprits:

  • Bisphosphonates (used to treat cancer and prevent osteoporosis)
  • Antacids that contain aluminum
  • Steroids
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Hormone blockers (used to treat hormone-linked cancers and endometriosis)

Abnormal bleeding

Blood-thinning medications can cause problems during oral surgery, periodontal treatment or even flossing.

Medicinal culprits:

  • Aspirin
  • Antacids that contain aluminum
  • Anti-stroke drugs
  • Heart disease medications

What do I do if medications are affecting my oral health?

Talk to your physician about your side effects, and always give your dentist a complete list of medications you’re taking, both prescription and over-the-counter. Your dentist will be able to help you minimize these side effects and prevent damage to your oral health.

Last updated December 21, 2021

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.