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Medications with Oral Side Effects

This Grandparent's Day, learn more about how meds can affect oral health.

Six Most Common Oral Side Effects

There is nothing more special than being able to experience the love of grandparents. The stories of their life experiences provide great first-hand history lessons and their hugs ensure everything will be okay. While grandparents are super heroes with lifesaving advice, they tend to be more susceptible to health conditions that require medications. Whether prescribed or over-the-counter, many medications have side effects that can affect oral health.

Be mindful of the following common mouth-related side-effects that can occur in the elderly due to medications:

  • A strange taste in the mouth can be the result of losing some of the ability to taste, sinus infections, or medications. Common medications that can cause a metallic taste or alter taste in the mouth are:
    • Clarithromycin (antibiotic)
    • Nicotine skin patches (smoking cessation)
    • Metformin (diabetes)
    • ACE inhibitors (blood pressure)
  • Gingiva Overgrowth is when the gum is inflamed or enlarged. This can be caused by poor oral hygiene or medication. Gingiva overgrowth can often be managed by brushing and flossing daily, however common medications that cause gingiva overgrowth are:
    • Cyclosporine (immune suppressants)
    • Dilantin/Phenytoin (anti-seizure)
    • Amlodipine/Norvasc (calcium channel blockers)
  • Dry mouth happens when salivation is reduced and increases the risk of cavities and gum disease. Dry mouth can be managed by avoiding caffeine, or sipping water. Common medications that cause dry mouth are:
    • Hydrocodone & Oxycodone (opioid pain medications)
    • Zoloft & Elavil (anti-depressants)
    • Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec (allergy medications)
    • Bumetanide & Furosemide (diuretics)
    • Tizanidine & Baclofen (muscle relaxants)
  • Hairy tongue happens when the balanced environment of natural bacteria living in the mouth is out of balance. Common causes include poor hygiene, dehydration, smoking, and medications. Hairy tongue can be managed by maintaining a good oral hygiene and staying hydrated. Common medications that can result in hairy tongue are:
    • Penicillin, erythromycin, tetracycline, doxycycline (antibiotics)
  • Oral thrush (yeast infection in the mouth) can be triggered by illness, smoking, dentures, or medications. Common medications that cause oral thrush are:
    • Advair, Flovent (Asthma)
    • Antibiotics
  • Oral Ulcers are painful sores inside the mouth. They generally go away within two weeks on their own. However, there may be underlying issues such as sexually transmitted diseases that may cause them to return. Be sure to visit the dentist and communicate about recurring oral ulcers. Common medications that result in oral ulcers:
    • Amoxicillin & Ampicillin (antibiotics)
    • Phenytoin & phenobarbital (anti-seizure)
    • Methotrexate (Immunosuppressant)
    • Ibuprofen, aspirin (pain reliever)

Overlooking oral side effects of medication can lead to long-term health issues and should be discussed with your doctor and/or dentist.