5 medications that increase tooth decay

5 common medications that increase tooth decay

Medications are supposed to make you healthier, but sometimes the side effects have negative impacts on your teeth and oral health.

All the medications listed shared a common side effect of xerostemia, or dry mouth. Dry mouth is a common factor that increases the risk of tooth decay and infection.

Saliva plays a big role in protecting your teeth and gums from bacteria. So when your mouth is dry, your risk for infection and tooth decay is increased.

Here are the common medications which cause dry mouth and subsequent tooth decay, and what you can do to protect your oral health.

Pain Medications

Patients with chronic pain are especially prone to periodontal disease and losing teeth due to dry mouth brought on as a side effect of pain medications.

On the bright side, if you take a painkiller before getting a filling or other dental treatment, it has been found to reduce your pain post-treatment.

Antihistamines and Decongestants

Antihistamines block histamine receptors to prevent allergic reactions. However, this same effect happens in other areas of the body, including the mouth and tongue.

Antihistamines block the release of saliva, resulting in dry mouth and increasing exposure to cavity causing bacteria.

Decongestants also create dry mouth while cough syrups are highly acidic and can lead to tooth decay and discoloration.

Blood Pressure Medication

Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, heart rhythmic medications and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are all commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure. These medications all share the side effect of dry mouth, increasing your chances of developing tooth decay.

These medications often cause inflammation of the gums making them more difficult to clean. The resulting plaque build-up then leads to increases in tooth decay.


Antidepressants have been linked to negative effects on bone health, which can increase a person’s chances of developing rampant tooth decay, bad breath, gum disease, oral yeast infections and implant failure. 

On top of this, you guessed it - antidepressants also cause dry mouth.

Specifically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), atypical antidepressants, and tricyclic antidepressants (not so much monoamine oxidase inhibitors) are known for causing dry mouth.


While antacids reduce tooth-damaging acid in your mouth, because antacids can may contain sugar or other tooth-damaging artificial sweeteners, they can weaken your teeth and contribute to tooth decay. This risk is applicable to chewable, dissolvable and liquid antacids.

So… how do you minimize damage:

If you are taking any of these medications, you can help curb dry mouth and consequential tooth decay by following these regiments:

  • Increase your daily water intake by drinking at least eight to ten glasses of water a day
  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Go for regular dental check-ups and cleanings
  • Use a moisturizing mouth spray
  • Eat hydrating snacks like celery sticks
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy
  • Don’t use tobacco products
  • Cut back on caffeinated and dehydrating drinks like coffee, tea and alcohol
  • Try a hydrating mouth rinse

For the bad breath which often accompanies dry mouth, you may want to try chewing on any of the following herbs: parsley, aniseed, fennel or rosemary.

When you do reach for the antacids to treat heartburn or acid reflux, find a sugar-free option. Be sure to brush your teeth after taking an antacid to help reduce any damaging effects.

Photo credit to @jamienelson6