According to information released by the American Dental Association, asthma treatments could drastically increase the risk for tooth decay, thrush, mouth ulcers, and other types of oral health problems. This is especially true for younger asthmatics.
Statistics indicate that over 20 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. Out of these, approximately 7 million children. Medical professionals prescribe a multitude of treatments for the condition. The most common include inhalers, steroids that are often coated with sugar, syrups, and similar types of oral-based medications.
Oftentimes, an asthma sufferer must take treatments several times a day. This increases the opportunity for oral health complications to arise. In this multi-part series, we will expound on the oral health dangers that stem from the use of the most common asthma treatments used today.
Oral Health Risks
There are multitudes of oral health risks associated with the use of asthma treatments. The following outlines the most common:
– Most asthmatics suffer from xerostomia, more commonly referred to as “dry mouth”. This is a direct result of the restriction of air flow that is experienced. Sufferers will breathe through their mouth more instead of through their nose. Additionally, the medications that are taken for asthma such as anticholinergic inhalers, inhaled corticosteroids, and beta-2 agonists will result in a reduction in the output of saliva. As a result, bacteria accumulate within the mouth and detrimentally impacts the oral tissue. Dry mouth could result in plaque, tooth decay, and the development of gum disease.
2. Dental Caries – Dental caries is a type of highly-infectious microbiological-based disease that results in the dissolution and fast destruction of the calcified tissues within the teeth. While normal mouths continuously bathe the teeth in saliva, today’s asthma treatments may prevent this from happening. This allows food products and substances from beverages to remain in the mouth. As a result, it creates a highly acidic environment that is imbalanced. This, in turn, results in dental caries. Over time, the caries may develop cavities.
3. Ulcerations – Asthma medications -mostly the inhaled treatments – results in two unique situations in the body; that is, dry mouth and a certain level of immunosuppression. As a result, lesions may occur in the oral tissue. These may then result in infection and other oral health problems.
4. Mucosal Changes – When asthmatic use inhaled corticosteroids, oropharyngeal-based candidiasis may then occur. In most instances, this presents as a form of thrush; however, it could present as throat irritation, coughing spells, dry mouth, and the development of tenderness in the oral tissues.
5. Gingivitis – This is gum disease. Individuals that use asthma treatments are more prone to this condition due to the habits of breathing through the mouth and the ingredients of such treatments. Additionally, the treatments reduce the production of saliva. As a result, periodontal disease is likely to develop.
Luckily there are several steps that will aid in protecting the tissues and structures of the mouth while using today’s most common asthma treatments.
Protecting the Mouth from the Detriment of Asthma Treatments
If your child suffers from asthma, you know and understand that the medical condition poses a vast array of challenges. However, it also poses problems with the mouth. To protect the mouth from the detrimental aspects of asthma treatments, the following steps may be taken:
1. Immediately after your child uses an inhaler or takes asthma-relief medication, they should immediately rinse their mouth. As soon as possible, the child should be encouraged to brush their teeth and use a mouthwash. This will aid in removing the residue of the ingredients contained within the medication and will help in encouraging saliva production.
2. Given the fact that most asthma treatments result in the development of dry mouth, the child should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids – especially water – to keep the mouth hydrated. Additionally, this will aid in keeping the body properly hydrated and the mouth clean.
3. The sugar intake of an asthmatic child should be reduced. It is important to avoid foods, snacks, and beverages (such as soda and juice) that contain high levels of sugar. Most pediatric dentists recommend the consumption of tap water that has been fluoridated. This helps to optimize the oral health while reducing the chance for cavities to develop.
4. The ingredients of your child’s asthma medications should be evaluated for sugar content. Oftentimes, these treatments are sweetened to enhance the taste. Unfortunately, a sweeter taste results in higher levels of dental complications. You should work with your child’s doctor and their pediatric dentist to uncover asthma treatments that do not jeopardize the oral health of your child.
5. Finally, children that take asthma medications should be encouraged to brush, floss, and rinse regularly. In most instances, twice a day is considered appropriate. However, kids that have asthma should engage in these tasks at least three to four times a day.
If you are seeking to protect your asthmatic child’s oral health, Richmond Pediatric Dentistry is here to help. We offer educational materials, sealants, and other services that will ensure that your child’s asthma treatments are not proving to be detrimental to the tissues and structures within their mouth.