Bipolar Medications and Dry Mouth

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When thinking about the potential side effects of bipolar medications, you may not think about one that some of them share with several hundred other prescription drugs—dry mouth.

It may sound like a simple inconvenience, but we need saliva. It neutralizes acids that would otherwise eat into the teeth, and it contains substances that help keep teeth healthy. When the mouth is constantly dry, tooth decay is much more likely. Dry mouth can greatly contribute to gum or periodontal disease and even potential tooth loss.

Gum Disease Can Be Serious

Your dentist probably tells you at each visit that you should be flossing your teeth every day. That's because flossing helps remove plaque, a bacteria-laden material that builds up on your teeth after every meal. Dry mouth can increase this build-up further, so having this problem is even more reason to clean between your teeth.

When plaque gets below the gum line, it causes gum disease, called gingivitis. Beyond tooth loss, periodontal disease has been associated with heart disease and diabetes, and it has even been connected to premature births and low birth weight.

Why Medications Cause Dry Mouth

Many of them have anticholinergic effects, meaning they interfere with a chemical in the body that affects glands and secretions (among other things). Saliva comes from the salivary glands in the mouth, so anything that affects those glands can decrease the amount of saliva, making your mouth dry.

Medications to Be Concerned About

Among the drugs that can cause dry mouth are many that are prescribed in treating bipolar disorder. Some of the most notorious are the tricyclic antidepressants, although other types of antidepressants can also decrease saliva. Most of the anticonvulsants used as mood stabilizers in treating bipolar disorder can cause dry mouth, as well as several antipsychotic medications.

Unfortunately, it's more than a little likely that you will be prescribed something for your bipolar disorder that could put you at risk for these concerns. Klonopin (clonazepam), an anti-anxiety medication also used as to control seizures, can also cause dry mouth.

In addition to those drugs that cause dry mouth, there are also medications that can cause you to grind your teeth. While this doesn't cause gum disease directly, it can make existing gum disease worse.

How to Protect Your Teeth and Gums

There are several methods that can be used to protect your teeth from the dental side effects of medications. The obvious ones are brushing your teeth at least twice daily and flossing once a day. Others include:

  • Drinking lots of water to keep your mouth hydrated
  • Chewing sugar-free gum with xylitol
  • Adding green tea and pomegranate juice to your diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Making sure you get enough vitamin C

Also, certain Biotene Dry Mouth products can be helpful, including:

  • Biotene Dry Mouth Mouthwash
  • Biotene Dry Mouth Gel and Gel Toothpaste
  • Biotene Dry Mouth Toothpaste
  • ACT Fluoride Mouthwash for Dry Mouth

Your Dentist Can Help

The one thing you should definitely do if you suffer from dry mouth or bleeding gums is to see your dentist. Only a dentist can evaluate how much damage has already been done and work with you to stabilize or improve the condition of your mouth. Make sure you give your dentist a list of all the medications you are taking. He or she will be able to spot the ones that could be contributing to your dental problems.

The dentist may recommend additional treatments such as a fluoride rinse, a prescription fluoride gel, saliva substitutes, a mouth guard (if you grind your teeth), or even a prescription drug to increase saliva production if it does not conflict with your current medications.

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