The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is a professional association of more than 37,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up to date in the profession through continuing education to better serve the public. Founded in 1952, the AGD has grown to become the second-largest dental association in the United States, and it is the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of general dentists. More than 772,000 persons in the United States are employed directly in the field of dentistry. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patients’ oral health needs.
More than 500 medications can contribute to oral dryness, including antihistamines (for allergy or asthma), antihypertensive medications (for blood pressure), decongestants, pain medications, diuretics and antidepressants.
CHICAGO—August 11, 2011—Leading dental and pharmacy organizations are teaming up to promote oral health and raise public awareness of dry mouth, a side effect commonly caused by taking prescription and over-the-counter medications. More than 500 medications can contribute to oral dryness, including antihistamines (for allergy or asthma), antihypertensive medications (for blood pressure), decongestants, pain medications, diuretics and antidepressants. In its most severe form, dry mouth can lead to extensive tooth decay, mouth sores and oral infections, particularly among the elderly. Nearly half of all Americans regularly take at least one prescription medication daily, including many that produce dry mouth, and more than 90 percent of adults over age 65 do the same. Because older adults frequently use one or more of these medications, they are considered at significantly higher risk of experiencing dry mouth.
The American Dental Association (ADA), Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) are collaborating to expand awareness of the impact of medications on dry mouth, a condition known to health professionals as xerostomia.
With regular saliva production, your teeth are constantly bathed in a mineral-rich solution that helps keep your teeth strong and resistant to decay. While saliva is essential for maintaining oral health and quality of life, at least 25 million Americans have inadequate salivary flow or composition, and lack the cleansing and protective functions provided by this important fluid. “Each day, a healthy adult normally produces around one-and-a-half liters of saliva, making it easier to talk, swallow, taste, digest food and perform other important functions that often go unnoticed,” notes Dr. Fares Elias, immediate past president, Academy of General Dentistry. “Those not producing adequate saliva may experience some common symptoms of dry mouth.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay affects children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease, highlighting the need for thorough oral care and regular dental visits. The ideal time for a child to visit the dentist is six months after the child’s first teeth erupt. During this initial visit, a dentist will be able to examine the development of the child’s mouth.
“Parents are surprised when I tell them that their infants can develop tooth decay and cavities soon after their teeth first appear,” says AGD spokesperson Steven A. Ghareeb, DDS, FAGD. “We usually call this baby bottle tooth decay, which is caused by the long-term exposure to liquids containing sugars like milk, formula, and fruit juice.”
In addition to tooth decay, other dental problems, such as teething irritations, gum disease, and prolonged thumb or pacifier sucking, often start early. The sooner the child visits a dentist, the better.
There are many things that parents can do with their child at home to maintain good oral health:
- Clean your infant’s gums with a clean, damp cloth twice a day.
- Ask your dentist when you may begin to rub a tiny dab of toothpaste on your child’s gums. Doing so will help your child become accustomed to the flavor of toothpaste.
- As soon as the first teeth come in, begin brushing them with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste.
- Help a young child brush at night, which is the most important time to brush, due to lower salivary flow during sleep and higher susceptibility to cavities and plaque.
- By approximately age 5, your child can learn to brush his or her teeth with proper parental instruction and supervision.
“The best way to teach a child how to brush is to lead by your good example,” says Dr. Ghareeb. “Allowing your child to watch you brush your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene.”
Children, like adults, should see the dentist every six months, AGD says. Some dentists may schedule interim visits for every three months when the child is very young to build the child’s comfort and confidence levels or for treatment needs.