If you've been on antidepressants for a while, you may notice that your teeth are not in as good a condition as they were before you started taking your medication. While your medicine doesn't directly harm your teeth, one of its common side effects may cause problems. How can you tell if your medication is putting your teeth at risk, and what can you do to reduce damage?
Antidepressants and Dry Mouth Syndrome
One of the side effects of some antidepressants is a dry mouth. While this may not seem such a big deal, a drier than normal mouth can impact your oral health. Your mouth needs a constant saliva flow to stay healthy. For example, your saliva helps deal with oral bacteria and plaque acids; saliva also helps keep your tooth enamel strong. If you don't produce enough saliva, you may be more likely to suffer from tooth decay.
Typically, it's easy to tell if your mouth is drier than usual. Your tongue may feel dry and stick to the roof of your mouth, your lips may get dry and cracked, and the saliva you do manage to produce may feel thick rather than watery. If you feel you do have dry mouth problems, you can take steps to make your mouth moister, which could go some way to reducing the risk of decay.
Reducing the Risk of Dry Mouth Damage
Typically, you take two approaches to managing a dry mouth. First, you want to try to get more saliva flowing; second, you want to remove factors that may make your mouth dry out even more.
Get More Fluids in Your Mouth
Taking regular drinks of water may help moisten your mouth; chewing is also a good way to get your juices flowing. For example, chewing a sugar-free xylitol gum may be useful. Any sugar-free gum will increase your saliva production. If you use a product that contains a xylitol sweetener, you also get the sweetener's ability to combat tooth decay. Watery or saucy foods may also help, especially if your mouth is so dry that eating has become painful.
Avoid Things That Dry Your Mouth More
If your antidepressants are drying out your mouth, you need to avoid doing things that will make the dryness worse. For example, smoking, alcohol and caffeinated drinks have a drying effect on your mouth so are best avoided. Mouthwashes that contain alcohol may also pose a problem.
If your antidepressants aren't having a major effect on your saliva production, you may be able to use these tips to manage oral dryness yourself. If these don't help deal with the problem, you may want to talk to your doctor and dentist to discuss other options.
Get Expert Help
If your mouth is extremely dry, it's worth talking to your doctor to discuss your medication. In some cases, you may be able to switch to a different antidepressant that may not have this side effect. If you're happy with your prescription and don't want to change, your doctor may be able to make changes to your dosage to alleviate the problem. For example, there is some evidence that switching to taking smaller doses of your medication over the day may reduce the dry-mouth side effect.
As well as giving you advice on how to care for your teeth and gums when you have dry mouth syndrome, your dentist may also be able to recommend products that can boost saliva flow more quickly. For example, you may be advised to use mouthwashes, toothpastes or artificial saliva products.