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Cough Syrup and Cavities: How this humble medicine could be hurting your teeth

The holiday season is not over yet, and so is the season for coughs, flu, and cold.

And when you have that pestering cough ruining an otherwise joyful celebration, all you want is to get rid of it ASAP.

So like most people, you will probably get that cough syrup to find relief from your symptoms.

While it is true that your medicine can provide that soothing fix, did you know that your cough syrup could actually be hurting your teeth in exchange?

It makes your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay

Many cough medications contain ingredients that are detrimental to the health of your teeth.

These include sucrose, corn syrup, citric acid, and alcohol. Sucrose and corn syrup are basically sugars that are added to improve taste.

While they allow the medicine to go down much easier, they are just as damaging to your teeth as candies are.

Your oral bacteria can feed on these sugars and make your teeth more susceptible to decay.

Citric acid, on the other hand, can erode and weaken the tooth enamel.

The combination of these ingredients is a dangerous one, as it can makes your teeth sensitive to hot and cold and even more prone to decay.

Some popular cough syrups also contain alcohol and antihistamines which are known to cause xerostomia (a.k.a. dry mouth) by decreasing the flow of saliva.

A normal, healthy mouth produces about a liter of saliva per day.

Saliva serves to dilute and buffer the acids produced by the oral bacteria, while also naturally washing the sugars, acids, and bacteria away from the teeth.

When alcohol is introduced to the oral tissues, the production of saliva decreases and its buffering effect becomes less effective.

Without enough saliva, the sugar and acids stay in the mouth longer, rendering your teeth at greater risk for decay.

This risk is even greater if you take the medication before bedtime, because less saliva is produced when you sleep, meaning all the sugar and acids will be in contact with your teeth for a longer period.

What you can do about it

Now, we are not telling you to stop taking you meds, but it will be a good idea to take extra care of your teeth while taking them.

Fortunately for you, there are lots of things that you can do to still find relief from your medication without endangering the health of your teeth.

First, opt for the soft gel, tablet, or caplet form instead of the syrup form if you can.

With pills, you minimize the contact between your teeth and the medication’s damaging ingredients.

It is also important if you take the medication during the day, preferably after meals, instead of bedtime.

Because after eating, more saliva is produced to partially digest the food that you’ve just eaten. This also means that all the sugars and acids from food will be washed away more easily.

Brush your teeth a couple of minutes after taking the medication or if you can’t, just rinse your mouth thoroughly with water and brush as soon as you can.

If your medication is causing dry mouth, you may also chew sugar-free gum to stimulate salivary flow.

Follow these tips and you’ll surely get rid of that cough at the same time have a wonderful celebration.