Increased Dental Decay among Patients with Asthma
Tooth enamel is one of the hardest substances in our bodies. The breakdown of our enamel is called tooth decay or dental caries. Simply stated, this decaying process occurs when we intake sugary or acidic foods and drinks. The sugars quickly turn acidic in the mouth. The acids in turn break down the tooth enamel causing decay.
One of the body's main defenses in the fight against tooth decay is the production of saliva. Saliva dilutes the acids in the mouth, thus reducing the damage that the acids cause.
Several research studies have shown that patients receiving long term corticosteroid therapy (such as the inhalers used regularly for the treatment of asthma) have a reduction in the size of their parotid gland by as much as 36%. The parotid gland is one of the major saliva producers in our mouths. A smaller parotid gland in turn reduces the amount of saliva we produce. With a decreased flow of saliva, the acids in our mouth are not diluted and washed away. The end result is an increase in tooth decay.
Patients who are on asthma medications should share their medical histories with their dentist. Dr. Chomas and the hygiene staff can offer helpful tips to keep tooth decay at bay. Aggressive and fastidious oral care is the best way to counter the increased risk of tooth decay among our patients with asthma.
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