Does the Sugar in My Medications Cause Tooth Decay?
It is nearly impossible to find a medication that does not list a host of possible side effects. Sometimes the potential effects are minor, like drowsiness or an upset stomach, other times more severe. But when it comes to liquid medicines, the possible damage to oral health are rarely mentioned.
New research conducted by the American Dental Association suggests that the sugar (sucrose) used in various common liquid medications may, over time, result in tooth decay. Read on to learn more about the sugar found in both everyday over-the-counter and prescription medications, and what you can do to keep your teeth healthy.
Why does sugar exist in medications?
Sugar is added to liquid medicines as a means of camouflaging the bitter or unpleasant taste of the medicinal ingredients. The sucrose also helps patients who experience difficulty swallowing their medications.
How does the sugar cause damage?
Like any other source of sucrose, the sugar found in medications is converted to an organic acid when broken down by bacteria. Most of the sugar is swallowed with the rest of the medicine, but some, naturally, remains behind in the mouth. The acid then, slowly over time, breaks down the surface of the tooth by eroding the enamel.
Since saliva contains repairing elements like calcium and fluoride, a natural counter-attack against the destruction of sugar already exists in the mouth. That healing process, unfortunately, takes time, so ensuring that the rate of damage does not overcome that of the repairing is important for good oral health.
Which medications contain the most sugar?
This particular study investigated a wide range of drugs and determined that over fifty liquid medicines contain between one and four grams of sugar per five-milliliter dose.
Codeine was found to contain one of the highest levels of sugar, at 4.3 grams (approximately one teaspoon) per dose. The study also considered the number of does a patient may be required to take in a day; codeine can be taken every four hours. Acetaminophen with codeine also contains a high sucrose level (three grams/dose).
Antibiotics were studied as well and some, such as azithromycin, cefuroxime, and erythromycin, among others, were found to contain at least three grams of sugar per dose. Also flagged for a high sucrose content include Nyquil, fluoxetine (antidepressant), senna (laxative), and carbamazepine (anticonvulsant).
What do the experts recommend?
If you are unable to swallow the pill form of your medication, don’t be alarmed—there are things you can do to lessen the chance of tooth decay from taking liquid medicines.
For everyday over-the-counter medicines, look for sugar-free versions or ask your pharmacist for types that are low in sucrose. If you are concerned about your prescription medication, bring those questions up with your doctor.
It is also recommended to avoid taking liquid medications after brushing your teeth before bed; the longer the acids remain on your teeth, the more potential harm. Therefore, taking surgary medicines right before bed is not ideal.
Since it an important matter, be sure to discuss your concerns with your dentist upon your next visit. This is especially recommended if your dentist feels you may be at risk for tooth decay.
We look forward to you contacting us at Downtown Nanaimo Dental Group for all of your family’s dental needs!