Asthma patients tend to breathe primarily through their mouth. Whenever there is more “mouth breathing” going on, there is a tendency for dry mouth. A drier mouth has less saliva. Saliva is important, because it bathes the surfaces of the teeth and removes bacteria from them. Therefore, asthmatics are at higher risk for cavities (caries) as a result of this drier mouth. Cavities, when untreated, can turn into bigger problems, like gum disease, abscesses and infections.
Another thing to consider: many asthma medications are a form of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are a wonderful drug, allowing the asthmatic to breathe more easily by decreasing swelling in the mouth and nasal passages and also by decreasing mucus flow. But this “drying out” quality of the medication also contributes to decreased salivary flow, which in turn results in an even drier mouth. Again, a dry mouth is a perfect platform for the development of cavities.
One more note about dry mouths: in addition to a dry mouth being more prone to cavities, a dry mouth can also develop into bad breath.
The asthma inhalers themselves can cause some minor oral health issues. The most common are little lesions on the roof of the mouth. In addition, use of steroids can contribute to thrush, which is a yeast infection that occurs in the mouth. Both of these issues are treatable. You should get in the habit of rinsing your mouth out after puffing on the inhaler, either with water or, if your dentist suggests it, a fluoride mouth rinse.
Anybody who is asthmatic should be sure that their dental team is aware of this chronic condition. The dentist should be told what medication you take for asthma, whether it is taken regularly or just in cases of attacks. In addition, asthmatic patients should bring their inhaler to their dental appointments. If you happen to also suffer from dental anxiety, is is critical that you bring your inhaler with you.
So, if you are an asthmatic, remember the following:
- Be extra vigilant about brushing and flossing to combat your higher risk for cavities.
- Rinse your mouth after using your inhaler.
- Keep your mouth hydrated with water or sugar free candies.
- Inform your dentist about your asthma and your medical regimen.
- Bring your inhaler to any dental appointments.