Younger adults are taking medications that could affect long term oral health

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A new US study demonstrates that many younger adult dental patients are taking medications, and highlights the importance of dental providers reviewing medication histories, regardless of age.

The study from Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University School of Dentistry—and published online ahead of print in Technology and Health Care—looked at dental records from 11,220 dental patients over the age of 18. The results showed 53 per cent of all patients reported taking at least one medication; 12 per cent of those aged 18-24 were taking at least one medication; and 20 per cent of those aged 25-34 were taking at least one medication 

“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,” senior author Dr Thankam Thyvalikakath said.

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,” Dr Thyvalikakath said. 

“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.”

The study showed that 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.

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