Health Check

How asthma affects your oral health

Asthma medications can affect your oral health, but there are some simple ways you can protect your mouth, teeth and gums.

Written by Susan Cartwright
Asthma patient girl inhaling medication for treating shortness of breath and wheezing in a park. Chronic disease control, allergy induced asthma remedy and allergy disease concept

If you live with asthma, it can be a daily battle just to breathe easily, so the last thing you need is another health concern.

While your oral health may not always be top of mind, it's something you should be mindful of, as asthma medications can have a harmful effect on your oral health. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Asthma and oral health: what are the issues?

Dry mouth

One of the main oral health problems for people with asthma is a reduction in the quantity and quality of the saliva1. Saliva helps protect the teeth, gums and soft tissues of the mouth. Inadequate saliva can lead to a dry mouth. And if the mouth is dry there is more potential for dental decay, erosion, gum disease and oral candidiasis1.

People with asthma are at risk of a dry mouth, with evidence showing that some asthma medications, such as beta-2 agonists, can reduce salivary flow1. People with asthma are also more likely to breathe through their mouths, which can dry out oral tissue.

Tooth erosion

People with asthma have a higher incidence of gastro-oesophageal reflux which can contribute to tooth erosion1.

Sugary food and drinks

People with asthma may also drink sugary drinks in an attempt to make the mouth more comfortable and wash away the taste of medication. This habit can contribute to dental decay.

MORE: The importance of having an asthma action plan

Oral health tips for people with asthma

A few simple steps can help to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy.

  • To help prevent oral disease, visit your dental practitioner regularly (every six months or more), and ask for a preventive program to be put in place including extra fluoride interventions. Fluoride helps to strengthen teeth and makes them more resistant to decay and erosion.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum is a great way to stimulate saliva flow and make a dry mouth more comfortable. It is wise to rinse the mouth with water after using your inhaler to wash away residual powder. A fluoride mouth-rinse could also be helpful in protecting the teeth – use it after your inhaler once or twice a day.
  • Using a ‘spacer’ device can help to deliver more medication directly to the lungs and leaves less medication residue in the mouth2.
  • Limit sugary drinks and foods to prevent tooth decay.

According to Asthma Australia, asthma affects one in 9 Australians and one Australian study found that around 45% of asthma sufferers report having 'not well controlled' to 'poorly controlled asthma'3, leaving them at risk of asthma flare-ups and related health issues, including poor oral health.

If you suffer from the condition, speak to your dentist about how to protect your teeth.

MORE: Visit Using your Extras to find out how Extras Cover can help with your dental costs.

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27012346

2. https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/living-with-asthma/resources/patients-carers/factsheets/spacer-use-and-care

3. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2015/202/9/asthma-control-australia-cross-sectional-web-based-survey-nationally

Written by Susan Cartwright

Dr Susan Cartwright is a founding member of the Oral Health Advisory Panel. The panel is a group of independent healthcare professionals with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of good oral health and its impact on general wellness. The Panel aims to take oral health beyond the dental clinic.

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