Kids’ Cold Medications and Tooth Decay

father giving son cough syrupAs the winter season comes quickly upon us, so does cold and flu season. For parents, that usually means caring for kids with runny noses and coughs. When your child comes down with an illness, you want to do everything you can to help them get better. Over-the-counter medicines are usually a go-to for easing their symptoms. While they help in suppressing coughs and colds, these medications can have a side effect you may have never considered before: tooth decay.

If your child is like most, he or she probably prefers sweet-tasting liquid medicine as opposed to pills. And this is understandable, as pills can be difficult for young children to swallow. But those sweet cough syrups are sweet for a reason. They contain a high amount of sugar, which bacteria in the mouth feed on. This breaks down the enamel of your child’s teeth, which then leads to decay. Citric acid is another ingredient that is commonly found in liquid medicines. This can also wear down tooth enamel and increase the risk of cavities. Additionally, the ingredients in liquid medicine can dry out your child’s mouth. Saliva helps rinse away cavity-causing sugars and acids. But a dry mouth means less saliva to fight off decay.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to reduce your child’s risk for tooth decay when taking medication:

  • Give your child medicine before breakfast, lunch or dinner as opposed to bedtime. When medicine is taken at bedtime, the sugars will remain in contact with your child’s teeth longer while they are sleeping, which can be very destructive. Eating also helps produce more saliva, so meal time is the perfect time to take medicine.
  • Be sure that your child brushes his or her teeth and rinses thoroughly after taking medicine. This will help get rid of any remaining sugars in the mouth.
  • As your child gets older and is able to swallow pills, start weaning them off liquid medicines and choose the pill form instead.

Help your child stay healthy this season by monitoring not only their immune system, but their dental health as well. By following these tips, you can help reduce your child’s risk of tooth decay when taking cough syrups and other liquid medications.

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About the Author

I am a family dentist who treats children as well as adults. Making smiles people love, extreme makeovers and complex dental reconstruction is our niche including implants, TMJ, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. As a participant in the blog, I will be offering dental perspectives on pediatric safety and health care options on a regular basis. I can be reached at Blessings to all! Dr Williams is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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