May is Asthma Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 25 million Americans have asthma, including 6 million children or adolescents. Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs and can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest pain. This disease can often be treated, most commonly with an inhaler. However, your dentist in Houston wants you to know that this treatment, and asthma in general, may have some unwanted oral health side effects.
Certain asthma medications may cause dry mouth. While uncomfortable, dry mouth is a condition that could lead to dental problems. Dry mouth occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough saliva. This may not sound like a big deal, but without saliva, bacteria and acids in the mouth that are typically rinsed away can build up, leading to tooth decay, bad breath, as well as other concerns.
Additionally, many asthmatics have difficulty breathing and can feel as if they can’t get enough air by breathing through their noses. As a result, it’s incredibly common for asthma sufferers to breathe out of their mouths instead. Mouth breathing over a prolonged period of time can also lead to dry mouth and contribute to a host of additional oral health problems.
Ingredients in asthma medications can affect teeth in different ways, but according to one study, the use of some inhalers increased the risk of decay and cavities. Using an oral inhaler directly exposes teeth to ingredients that can wear down the tooth’s protective layer, called enamel. Depending on how often the inhaler is needed can affect the level of exposure to these ingredients and the likelihood of getting cavities.
Another thing your dentist in Houston will be on the lookout for, especially in kids with asthma, is oral thrush. Oral thrush is an infection in the mouth caused by a buildup of a fungus called Candida. Oral thrush can show up as white or yellow bumps on the tongue or inside of the cheeks and can cause discomfort. The good news is that it can usually be treated, but it’s more common in asthmatics that use a corticosteroid asthma medication or who have weakened immune systems.
How to Lower the Risk of Asthma-Related Oral Health Problems
We know that asthma patients are more likely to have dry mouth and are at an increased risk of developing cavities and oral thrush. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to reduce the risk of these unwanted side effects of asthma and asthma medications.
- Drink Water. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help rinse away acids and bad bacteria in the mouth, lowering the risk of decay. Staying hydrated can also help alleviate dry mouth.
- Swish With Water. Promptly rinsing your mouth out with water after using an inhaler can help remove ingredients that can cause dry mouth or cavities.
- Chew Sugarless Gum. The repeated chewing motion of chewing will help produce more saliva and help wash away bacteria.
Don’t stop using any prescribed medications before talking to your medical team. When it comes to asthma, make sure you talk with your dentist in Houston about any medications. We can then cater your dental care based on your individual needs.