Could Your Child’s Medicine Cause Cavities?

Children's dentist in Rochester, MNGrowing up, we heard our parents speak these words more times than we can count. As parents, we have even uttered them a time or two. “This is going to hurt me a lot more than it will hurt you.” Is it possible that the opposite is true? Certainly, says Dr. Gilly Calcagno, a children’s dentist in Rochester, MN, especially when it comes to administering medication. It may be hard to stomach, but sugary sodas and candies are not the only culprits behind tooth decay in children.

It starts with the commonly held perception that all medicine is yucky, and it ends with manufacturers loading pediatric medications with sugar. In an effort to conquer the ages-old struggle between parents and children, we have somehow managed to create even greater risks for our children’s oral health. Tooth decay trumps all other oral diseases among children. Bacteria living in the mouth come into contact with sugar, then begin producing acid that eats away at tooth enamel. The longer the sugar remains in contact with the surface of teeth, the greater the risk. The acid-weakened tooth begins to decay, and cavities form. The threat is even greater for children who require medication as a result of recurring or chronic health conditions.

Which Pediatric Medications Can Cause Tooth Decay?

Liquid medications are no’t the only formulations to pose a threat. As a parent, you should be aware of sugar found in:

  • Cough syrups and liquid allergy medications, such as antihistamines
  • Liquid antibiotics
  • Asthma inhalers
  • Cough drops
  • Tonics

Many common pediatric medicines suppress salivary gland activity, which adversely impacts your child’s oral health. Saliva is the body’s natural cleanser, washing away bacteria and traces of food. Without this added defense, your child is more likely to develop cavities. The longer your child must take the medication, the greater the risk. This applies both to prescription-only and over-the-counter medications.

How Can You Safeguard Children’s Teeth Against Cavities?

Voice concerns with your child’s pediatrician. For example, you might ask whether a sugar-free substitute is available. Unless otherwise directed, administer the medication along with a meal. Eating stimulates saliva production, which affords some protection against plaque and cavities. Instruct your child to rinse with water immediately after each dose of medication. After one hour, your child should brush using a fluoride-containing toothpaste for added protection. Chewing sugarless gum is recommended for teenagers and older children.

Raising happy, healthy children is a challenge, especially when the things that make them feel better can also make them feel worse. Regular dental cleanings and checkups are important for all children, especially those who must take medicine regularly.

Concerned about cavities? To schedule an appointment with Dr. Calcagno, or for more information about our services, contact our Rochester office at 507-281-3659. We offer cosmetic and family dentistry for patients living in Red Wing, St. Charles, Winona, Farmington, and nearby cities. You can also find us on Facebook.