Monday, March 26, 2012

More About Meds and Tooth Decay: Brush Several Times A Day

One of my most popular posts is the one about the dental problems that can result from taking meds for your brain.  As I said in that post, tooth problems aren't something that most pdocs even know about, let alone warn us about when we start taking crazy meds.  So you start a bunch of new meds for bipolar, depression, or ADHD, and suddenly your previously cavity-free mouth looks like that of a meth user.

I was at the dentist last week and learned something interesting, and a little counterintuitive, that I thought I should share with y'all: Drinking more water doesn't help your teeth.  I'd sort of assumed that it would.  I mean, if the problems are caused by your mouth being dry, wouldn't it make sense to make your mouth wet?

The problem with my hypothesis is that tooth decay, of course, is caused by bacteria.  Your mouth fights bacteria not with water, but with saliva.  Saliva has antibacterial properties.  Water does not.  Saliva also remineralizes your teeth, filling in any tiny pits that could develop into cavities later.  Water does not.  As my dentist said, "It just means you have to pee a lot".

My dentist recommends a lot of ways of dealing with this.  There's the high-flouride prescription toothpaste.  There are the mints and gum with xylitol in them, which stimulates saliva production.  Then there's plain old brushing.  By brushing your teeth several times a day, you get rid of that bacteria, and that prevents cavities.

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