Inhalation Therapy Proves Detrimental to Oral Health

Throughout the years, various types of inhalation therapies have been utilized as the main course of treatments in injuries, medical conditions, and diseases that detrimentally impact the respiratory function of a patient; while highly beneficial in improving the functionality of clear breathing, research has concluded that inhalation therapies are detrimental to oral health.

The good news is, there are strategies that successfully offset the complication that inhalation therapies cause, in terms of dental health. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn general information pertaining to common inhalation therapies, details concerning their negative impact on the oral health, and how to prevent the dental health issues when utilizing these treatments to optimize respiratory function.

Inhalation Based TherapyGeneral Information on Inhalation Therapies

Inhalation-based therapies are specially-designed treatments that aid in improving breathing functionality and restoring the ability to breathe easily. There are several types of therapies available. These range from inhalers for those suffering from asthma, nebulizers, oxygen therapy use at home for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to the mechanical ventilation units in place at hospitals for those suffering from acute-level respiratory failure. Inhalation therapy also includes the following:

  • Incentive spirometry for individuals needing to improve their breathing after surgical procedures involving the lungs, abdomen, the neck area, and/or the head.
  • Oxygen chambers for patients needing immediate oxygen saturation within the blood, such as those that are suffering from decompression illness and poisoning from carbon dioxide.
  • Continuous positive area pressure (CPAP) units designed to aid those with sleep apnea, distress syndrome of the respiratory system, and abnormalities negatively impacting the lower level airways within the body.
  • Life support utilized in intensive care to assist in the continuation of the breathing of a patient.

Adverse Effects on Dental Health Discovered

Inhaled corticosteroids, Beta-2 agonists, sodium cromoglicate, and anticholinergic bronchodilators are commonly utilized as standalone or combined inhaled treatments for various respiratory complications experienced by patients. According to studies, the dosage, the frequency in which the treatments are used, and the length of time a patient is prescribed the inhalation therapies will determine the adverse effects the treatments have on the dental health.

It has been established that the prevalence of respiratory conditions and diseases are on the rise. In turn, oral health complications are on the rise due to the increased level of usage among patients. While highly beneficial for the general health, these treatments cause many oral health problems.

Dental Health Problems Stemming from Inhaled Therapy Usage

Individuals that are on high doses of inhalation therapy treatments for long durations are at most risk for oral health complications. The main reason that inhalation medications detrimentally impact the oral tissues is because of the fact that a large portion of the drug that is being inhaled is actually retained within the oral cavity and the oropharynx region. Common issues that may develop include the following:

  • Dental Caries – This is a highly infectious disease that is microbiologic in nature. It causes dissolution and the eventual destruction of the calcified-based tissues in the mouth. Inhalation medications commonly reduces or completely eliminates the salivary flow in the mouth. This creates a high level of acid in the mouth and an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, which metabolizes in the area.
  • Gingivitis – If a person uses inhaled corticosteroids, they have a higher chance of developing gingivitis. This, results in a decrease in salivary secretion and the chance that the patient breathes more through the mouth, rather than the nose.
  • Halitosis – Due to the possibility for the development of high levels of bacteria in the mouth and the excess chemicals from inhalation therapies, halitosis or bad breath, may develop. Additionally, dry mouth (xerostomia) may also develop. These conditions may result in periodontal disease and numerous other oral health problems.
  • Oral Mucosal Complications – A potential side effect of the use of inhalation therapies is the development of oropharyngeal candidiasis. Many refer to this as “thrush”. When this problem develops, a white plaque develops on the tongue, the teeth, and other regions of the mouth. Individuals may find that the soft tissues of the mouth become tender, the throat becomes irritated, they develop a cough, the mouth becomes dry, and the tongue may become enlarged.
  • Ulceration Development – The use of inhalation therapies has been directly linked to ulceration development within the mouth. This stems from the dry mouth that stems from inhaled drug use, as well as the immunosuppression often caused by the inhalation medications. This ulceration commonly presents as a lesion that is often covered by a thin membrane that is yellow or white in color.
  • Xerostomia – This is commonly referred to as “dry mouth”. Patients that use inhaled corticosteroids, beta-2 agonists, and the anticholinergic-based inhalers most commonly suffer from this adverse oral health condition. Again, these reduce salivary output. Symptoms commonly experienced as a result of dry mouth include – but, are not at all limited to – mouth soreness, problems in swallowing, talking complications, taste alterations, oral fissuring, the development of mouth ulcers, and atrophy of the epithelial region.

Preventing Oral Health Problems While on Inhalation Therapies

If you are on any type of inhalation therapy, it is imperative to know how to prevent dental health problems from occurring. By following the steps below, you are less likely to suffer:

  1. 1. Request a spacer device from your primary care provider. This aids in reducing the amount of medication-based deposits that are left behind within the mouth and the oropharynx. When a spacer is used, the chemical particles have more time to evaporate and more of the medication is directly inhaled into the lung.
  2. 2. You should ensure that you get a dental checkup at least once every 6 months – while on the inhalation treatment and after.
  3. 3. Brushing should be done following each meal, flossing should be once a day, and a strong mouth wash should be used on a regular basis.
  4. 4. The mouth wash option you should go with are those that are antimicrobial. The ideal choice should be any product that contains at least 0.2% of the ingredient chlorhexidine.
  5. 5. Once an inhalation treatment is used, your enamel is weak due to the increased amount of acid within the mouth. You should avoid brushing, flossing, and/or using a mouth wash for at least an hour after the therapy is completed; otherwise, damage may occur to the mouth.
  6. 6. Sugary and starchy foods should be avoided.
  7. 7. Water intake should be increased while on inhalation therapy. Not only does this optimize your general health, but, it will aid in overcoming the issue of salivary output reductions, aid in washing away harmful agents in the mouth, and will reduce the acidic nature of the mouth while on inhaled drugs.
  8. 8. You should ask your doctor about prescribing nutritional supplements while taking inhaled medicines.
  9. 9. Seek out dental sealants from your dental care provider. These help in reducing the possibility of the inhaled medication becoming lodged in the small pits and fissures that are located on each of your teeth.
  10. 10. Inform your dental care provider that you are on inhalation therapies and inquire about additional measures that are based on your individual dental health status.

We Can Help Protect Your Oral Health

Here at American Dental of Georgia, we offer many services, treatments, and educational material that can help in protecting your mouth while on inhalation therapies. If you want to avoid the complications that these medications can cause, you may benefit from that which we have to offer. If you have any questions or concerns about your dental health, simply direct them to our staff of highly-knowledgeable and trained professionals today:

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