Asthma is a chronic lung condition that can lead to problems like coughing or difficulty breathing, but surprisingly, it can also cause oral health problems. One of the oral health problems associated with asthma is tooth decay. Here are four things asthmatics need to know about tooth decay.
How does asthma cause tooth decay?
On its own, asthma isn't responsible for tooth decay. However, the inhaled corticosteroids you use to treat it can lead to cavities. It may seem unbelievable that your asthma inhaler could give you cavities, but this happens because most of the medication remains in your mouth. If you use a pump inhaler, 90% of the medication stays in your mouth, while only 10% reaches your lungs, where it belongs.
The large dose of corticosteroids that remains in your mouth then reduces your saliva flow. In addition to moistening your mouth, saliva helps to keep your mouth clean, and if you have less of it, more food and plaque can build up on your teeth between tooth brushing sessions. Additionally, saliva helps to control bacteria, so if your mouth is dry, the acid-producing bacteria that cause tooth decay get the upper hand. This is why inhaled corticosteroids are associated with tooth decay.
What are the signs of tooth decay?
In the early stages, when the decay only affects your enamel, you may not notice any symptoms. Once the decay becomes more advanced, and the deeper layers of your tooth are affected, you'll notice symptoms. These symptoms include things like tooth sensitivity or a toothache. Once the decay gets very severe, you may be able to see a hole in your tooth.
How can you prevent tooth decay?
Just like non-asthmatics, it's important that you brush and floss your teeth regularly. Regular visits to your dentist for professional cleanings and tooth examinations are also essential. However, there are some tooth decay prevention strategies that are specific to asthmatics.
To prevent tooth decay further, asthmatics need to ensure that more of their medication is making its way to their lungs, rather than remaining in their mouths. You can do this by using a spacer with your inhaler. Spacers are tube-shaped accessories that force more of your medication into your lungs, which can help you prevent oral side effects.
You should also rinse your mouth out with water after using your inhaler. If possible, gargle as well so that your throat is also rinsed. Gargling and rinsing will help to wash away any corticosteroids that your spacer didn't force into your lungs.
If your mouth is still dry despite these preventative measures, you should see your dentist for further help. Your dentist can help you keep your mouth moist and prevent cavity formation.
What else can your dentist do?
Your dentist can teach you ways to moisten your mouth, which will help to counteract the cavity-causing effects of dry mouth. You may be told to sip water or use products like dry mouth toothpaste or artificial saliva. Your dentist may also prescribe a medication to stimulate your salivary flow.
Also, your dentist can help you stave off tooth decay by professionally cleaning your teeth. These cleanings are important because plaque hardens quickly, and once it hardens, you can't remove it by yourself. This hardened plaque can then contribute to decay.
If your dentist discovers cavities inside your mouth, they can be repaired. You're probably already familiar with the main ways dentists fix cavities: fillings, crowns, and in severe cases, root canals. While these treatments are routine, it's still important to try to prevent cavities, so be sure to focus on prevention.
If you use an inhaler to control your asthma and are worried about getting cavities, talk to a dental clinic like Apollo Dental Center.