Asthma is a chronic disease that causes breathing difficulties by making the airways in the lungs become narrow and begin to swell. According to the CDC, 9.7% of adults suffer from asthma, while 7.6% of children have asthma in the United States.
Common medications used to treat asthmatic symptoms include inhalers and nebulizers. Inhalers are often carried around by a person who suffers from asthma and can be used as an on-the-spot treatment if they should have a sudden asthma attack.
Inhalers can treat minor cases of asthma as well as severe ones. But unfortunately, while inhalers can help an asthmatic person breathe, they can also cause oral health issues like cavities. While it is possible to talk to your doctor about changing the medication in your inhaler if you notice your oral health is suffering, giving up the inhaler entirely is not an option for most people who have asthma. Fortunately, good oral health habits go a long way, and a few asthma-specific tips can keep your mouth healthy despite having to use an inhaler.
Does Asthma Medication Cause Cavities & Tooth Decay?
When you use your breathing treatment, or inhaler, by putting it to your lips and breathing in, the medication can quickly squelch an asthma attack. Some people use their inhalers only when they have an infrequent attack, while others need to take a form of asthma medication every day to relax the muscles around the airways in their lungs. But asthma medication can leave a residue on your teeth that can wear down the hard outer layer of your tooth called the enamel. Asthma medicines can contain different ingredients that may have varying degrees of how they effect your oral health. Some asthma medications can even have sugar in them to improve the taste.
In a 2007 study, asthma and tooth decay were the two top reasons for children missing school. The study also showed that the use of the medication salbutamol, also known as albuterol, specifically when used in an inhaler as opposed to in tablet form, increased the tooth decay rate in school children. The effects of albuterol on teeth can not only cause cavities but also lead to periodontal disease.
Dental Problems Inhalers Cause
Asthma can come in many different forms and can be triggered by different types of activity or situations. Asthmatic attacks can be caused by:
- Laughing gas
Depending on the type of asthma you have, your medications will vary. Having a fast-acting inhaler for sudden asthma attacks will have a different medication than an inhaler you use several times a day to relax the muscles in your airways to keep your asthma under control. The differing medications will also have varying effects on your oral health as well. Asthma medications are usually put into two groups, corticosteroids, and bronchodilators.
Corticosteroids are steroids used for sudden attacks and are usually used for a shorter period of time.
Bronchodilators, like albuterol, can be used every day to keep your respiratory health consistent, but they can also be used as a fast-acting medication. Both types of asthma medications can lead to tooth decay.
Medications like Advair are a combination of a corticosteroid and bronchodilator but, unfortunately, can also lead to the development of cavities.
In addition to tooth decay, inhalers can also cause negative health effects like gum disease, dry mouth, and even fungal infections. Inhalers are an excellent way to manage asthmatic symptoms and can even be a life-saving medication when used during an asthma attack. But as with every kind of medication, negative side effects can occur. Being aware of what negative oral health complications can happen will help you know what to look for and, ultimately, how to protect your mouth from these negative inhaler side effects.
Oral thrush is a fungal infection that creates white or yellow bumps or patches on the inside of your cheeks or even on your tongue. It can be uncomfortable at times though most cases are mild and easily treated with antifungal medicine. While thrush often occurs when a person has a weakened immune system, oral medications used like corticosteroids that are prescribed to asthma patients can also lower the immune system in your mouth and throat when ingested through an inhaler.
Using an inhaler can lead to a condition called dry mouth which leaves the mouth feeling dry because of an interruption in salvia production. The saliva in your mouth is very important to your overall oral health. This wet substance that is produced naturally in your mouth delivers needed minerals to your teeth and gums while also working as a cleaner to rinse away foods, sugars, and harmful bacteria from your teeth. When patients suffer from dry mouth, also called xerostomia, the mouth’s health can begin to decline. Tooth decay and mouth sores can be unfortunate side effects of having a dry mouth.
A dry mouth can lead to developing mouth sores or canker sores if left untreated. The steroid medications in some patients’ inhalers can lead to the development of dry mouth, and eventually, painful mouth sores will follow. But, as stated above, inhalers can also cause oral thrush, which can also result in open sores in your mouth. The white, bumpy patches can burst open, causing painful, irritating sores to develop.
Why Rinse Mouth After Using an Inhaler?
Even though using an inhaler can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay, dry mouth, oral thrush, mouth sores, and gum disease, there are some simple remedies to decrease the chances of developing one of these negative side effects. Knowing that asthma inhaler use can take a toll on your oral health, increasing oral hygiene is certainly a good idea.
Brushing twice a day and flossing daily can keep your mouth in the best condition possible. Because most negative side effects result from the medication coating your mouth and teeth, rinsing your mouth out with water after using your inhaler is an excellent way to prevent oral health decline. Specifically, rinsing your mouth after using a steroid inhaler is important because of the medicated residue it leaves on your teeth, inner cheeks, and tongue. Brushing your teeth after using an inhaler is an even better way to clean off the medication's film left on your teeth.
Find A Dentist Near You
If you have asthma and are worried about your inhaler medication having a negative impact on your oral health, establishing a relationship with a trusted dentist in your community is essential to keeping a close eye on your teeth and gums. Smile Generation can help you find an experienced dentist in your area today.
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