Medications Could Affect Long-Term Oral Health Among Younger Adults

Dentistry Today


Many younger adult dental patients are taking medications that could affect their long-term oral health, so dental providers should review their medication histories regardless of age, according to the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University (IU) School of Dentistry. The study examined dental records form 11,220 dental patients over the age of 18 and found:

  • 53% of all patients reported taking at least one medication.
  • 12% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 were taking at least one medication.
  • 20% of those between the ages of 25 and 34 were taking at least one medication.

“The number of younger adults on medication really surprised us,” said senior author Thankam Thyvalikakath, DMD, MDS, PhD, director of the Regenstrief Institute and IU School of Dentistry Dental Informatics Program.

“Often dentists will assume individuals this age aren’t on medications, but these results underscore the importance of paying attention to medical histories of all patients, because medications can play a significant role in oral health,” she continued.

Younger adults were most likely to be taking antidepressants, which can cause dry mouth, and opioids, which carry the risk of addiction.

“We need to be aware of these possibilities, because dry mouth increases risk for tooth decay and tooth loss, and dental professionals should be proactive with preventive measures,” said Thyvalikakath.

“In the same way, if someone is taking an opioid, we as dentists need to make sure we are not overprescribing these medications to that patient and possibly contributing to dependence or substance use disorder,” she said.

Older patients were more likely to be taking medications to treat chronic conditions like high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes. Across all ages, White patients were more likely to be on a medication.

In the future, Thyvalikakath hopes to develop and test an intervention to alert dental care providers about medicines and medical history because a more complete picture of a person’s health can lead to better care and prevention.

The study, “Differences in Medication Usage of Dental Patients by Age, Gender, Race/Ethnicity and Insurance Status,” was published by Technology and Health Care.

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