ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin are among some of the more commonly prescribed prescription drugs. In the United States, it’s estimated that nearly 2.5 million people are prescribed prescription stimulants like Adderall for the treatment of ADD/ADHD. While every medication has its side effects, Adderall and other prescription stimulants could be the culprit of a surprising side effect: declining oral health.
Your oral health is an important part of your overall health. Poor oral health is linked to many health conditions like endocarditis to cardiovascular disease and is oftentimes a marker of your general well-being. The notion that your ADHD medication could be affecting your oral health may be alarming, but it’s important to look at the facts. Here’s a look at some things you should know about the harm your prescriptions can cause to your oral health.
Why Saliva Is Important for Oral Health
When we talk about damage to your oral health, where prescription drugs like Adderall come into play is their effect on your saliva. When your saliva production is lessened, your teeth are more vulnerable to damage from things like acid or bacteria.
Saliva is a vital part of your oral health. It acts as a buffer to help keep your teeth healthy as it fends off harmful bacteria, regulate PH levels, and aid in tooth remineralization (a natural tooth repair process). Without proper salivary function, your teeth and gums will begin to suffer from some degree of damage.
Is Adderall Bad for Your Oral Health?
There have been several studies that have examined the effect Adderall and other prescription stimulants can have on your teeth and gums. As previously mentioned, one of the major culprits these studies point to when determining the cause of this decay is bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching) and a decrease in saliva production, resulting in dry mouth (called xerostomia).
One study, published in the journal Archives of Oral Biology, indicated that children with ADHD are twelve times more likely to have a higher Decayed-Missing-Filled Teeth index than non-ADHD children. Researchers involved with this study noted that side effects of medication, particularly xerostomia, reduce saliva’s buffering capacity, leading to an increased risk of decay. Finally, they cited that those experiencing xerostomia often turn to the consumption of soft drinks to alleviate the dry mouth.
Another study, published in Pediatric Dentistry, found that patients taking amphetamines have an increased risk of gingival enlargement (an increase in the size of the gingiva [gums]). Researches say this increased risk was statistically significant and was likely caused by decreased saliva production.
Are There Other Prescription Drugs That Can Damage Your Teeth?
There are hundreds of prescription medications that can negatively impact your oral health. Along with Adderall, many medications can cause decreased saliva production, tooth decay, and halt tooth remineralization. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications that have an effect on your oral health include:
- Sleep aids (Ambien, Lunesta)
- ADHD medications (Adderall, Ritalin)
- Antihistamines (Vistaril, Ararax)
- Blood pressure medications (Inderal, Clonidine)
- Painkillers (Vicodin, Percocet)
It’s important to note that all of these medications have listed side effects, all of which your doctor should communicate with you before prescribing them. However, the risks that many of these medications pose to your oral health are not always known or effectively communicated by your doctor. It’s always wise to ask your doctor about the risks associated with your medications and bring up any concerns you may have surrounding your oral health.
Other Compounding Effects
It’s not just the decreased saliva function that prescription drugs cause that is damaging to your oral health. In addition to this, lifestyle choices, habits, and other side effects of the drug can also cause accelerated tooth and gum damage.
For example, if your ADHD medication is causing dry mouth, you may find yourself with an urge to take in more fluids. However, in today’s world, many of the fluids we regularly drink are filled with sugars and acids that can weaken enamel and make your teeth more susceptible to damage.
People who have been prescribed Adderall or other stimulant medications for ADHD may also experience a lack of appetite. Not only is this harmful to your overall health, but going without eating also stops your body from producing extra saliva to aid with digestion. This further impacts the salivary buffer time teeth should experience on a daily basis. Should you overuse or abuse your medications, these effects can become exacerbated and lead to further damage and decay.
Other compounding factors that can damage your oral health include:
- Failure to visit a dentist regularly
- Poor diet
- Higher caffeine intake
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Use of recreational drugs such as cocaine or crystal meth
How You Can Stop the Damage
If you’ve found that your oral health has begun to decline, it may not be reasonable, or for that matter possible, to simply stop taking your ADHD medication. Because of this, mitigating the damage your medications cause to your teeth and gums is vitally important. If your medication is necessary, here are some ways you can lessen the damage it can cause to your oral health:
- Chew sugar-free gum to encourage the production of saliva
- Make sure you know the risks of your medication by asking your doctor or pharmacist if it can be damaging to your teeth. Ask your doctor about lower dosages and if less harmful alternatives exist for your condition.
- Make an effort to avoid exacerbating factors like smoking, consuming soda and energy drinks, high-stress lifestyle.
- Be proactive and methodical about regular dental checkups and maintaining an excellent home care regimen.
So, if you can’t stop your current ADHD medication regimen, what can you do? While mitigating the damage may be enough for some, you may find it hard to keep up. If this is the case, it’s important to talk with your doctor about what your options are. Your doctor can help you determine what steps you need to take to improve your oral health, and may even be able to change your prescription to help slow the damage.
Did You Know That Adderall May Be Bad for Your Oral Health?
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