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How Cough Syrup is Affecting Your Teeth

Posted on 11/20/2015 by Nic Grasvik
An elderly man using a bottle of cough syrup.With summer coming to an end, school getting back underway, and fall weather approaching, cold and flu season is on the horizon. Many parents utilize cough syrup in order to ease their child's discomfort when they experience a cold, but unfortunately, many don't understand the risks of these medicines when it comes to oral health. In fact, there are several ingredients found in cough syrup that will make your teeth highly susceptible to decay and cavities.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Can Damage Your Teeth

High fructose corn syrup is often added to liquid cough medicine in order to sweeten it and make it more appealing to kids. Unfortunately, it has high sugar content, and these sugars tend to be very sticky, causing the environment of your mouth to become extremely acidic. This also provides the bacteria in the mouth with the sugars needed to break down and attack your tooth enamel. If you also have low levels of saliva, when these sticky sugars are added, you'll be at a heightened decay risk.

Cough Syrup Contains Citric Acid

Many cough syrups also contain citric acid, which can be terrible for your teeth. Lengthy exposure will cause the tooth enamel to dissolve, and this demineralization is known as erosion. When erosion has moved into the inner, softer layers of the teeth known as the dentin, decay can result, and you may also experience pain and sensitivity.

The Dangers of Alcohol in Cough Syrup

Some cough syrups will contain low doses of alcohol, and this can be detrimental to your teeth. Alcohol can cause the mouth to become dry, and when saliva production is decreased, your teeth will be at risk for developing damage. In a normal mouth, saliva is produced rapidly, and our bodies create about a quart per day. Saliva is crucial for the health of your teeth because it will wash away acid and sugar, and without it, these destructive substances will stay on your teeth for longer amounts of time, increasing the risk of cavities and decay.

Tips for Keeping Your Mouth Healthy

There are several steps that you can take to lessen the effects of the acids and sugars found in cough syrup:
•  Be sure to brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste after taking cough syrup
•  Read the labels of cough syrup packages thoroughly to find an option with minimal sugar
•  Take cough syrup at meals rather than right before bed, as more saliva will be available to rinse away the acids and sugars
•  If you aren't able to brush, rinse out your mouth with water after taking cough syrup. You can also chew on sugar-free gum
•  If cough syrup has given you dry mouth, suck on a sugar-free candy to promote the production of saliva
•  Cut back on caffeinated beverages when using cough syrup in order to reduce your symptoms of dry mouth
•  Choose a pill or capsule form of medication over cough syrup whenever possible
•  Use topical fluoride or calcium supplements if you are taking cough syrup

Other Medications of Concern

Unfortunately, cough syrup isn't the only type of medication that you should be concerned about when it comes to your oral health. Other medications that contain sugar, such as antacid tablets, cough drops, chewable vitamins, and other children's medications, can also cause cavities. There are numerous medications that can cause dry mouth, which can ultimately lead to decay, including antihistamines, decongestants, and pain medications.

If you have questions about how cough syrup or any other medication might be impacting your oral health, feel free to contact our office. We can set up a visit to examine the status of your oral health and whether any of your medications might be making an impact.


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Preferred Dental Care Center, 4690 SW Hall Blvd, Beaverton, OR 97005 ~ (503) 350-1234 ~ ~ 1/11/2022 ~ Tags: dentist Beaverton OR ~ dentist Beaverton OR ~