About 26.5 million Americans have asthma, and 6 million of those are children. Commonly, children are prescribed a nebulizer to administer steroids that stimulate and open airways for easier breathing. 

Though the link between asthma and oral health problems has not yet been proven, statistics show that asthmatics are at a higher risk of tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and irritation of soft oral tissues that come in contact with medication. Those who use a nebulizer can add enamel erosion to this list of oral health concerns.

How Does Asthma Harm Oral Health?

Asthma itself doesn’t cause oral health problems. In fact, research linking asthma and oral health issues is in its infancy. Here’s what we do know.

Dry Mouth

Most asthmatics breathe through their mouths when airways are restricted. Mouth-breathing dries up saliva, which causes a condition known as dry mouth. Saliva washes away bacteria, but the lack of saliva allows bacteria to remain in place. Harmful bacteria in the mouth lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

Acidic Medications

Some of the prescription drugs that treat asthma are inherently acidic. In the mouth, acids break down tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of teeth. As enamel thins, teeth become sensitive to temperature and pressure, and they also become more vulnerable to decay. 

Sugary Medications

Some asthma medications contain sugar. As you well know, sugar leads to tooth decay.

Inhaled Irritants

Through inhalers and nebulizers, medication comes in direct contact with the mucosa, or soft oral tissues, of the mouth and throat. Only 10 to 20% of inhaled medications actually make it into the lungs. So, medication intended for the respiratory system ends up landing on and irritating soft oral tissues. Some people develop sores or ulcers on the roof of the mouth or in the throat. Others notice an altered sense of taste after using an inhaler or nebulizer. 

Precautions to Reduce Risks

Do not stop using your asthma medications! You should, however, consider taking some precautions to reduce your risk — or your child’s risk — for oral health issues that could be linked to your nebulizer and/or inhalers.

  1. Ask your doctor if your asthma medication is acidic, and if it is, discuss using an alternative medication that’s less acidic.
  2. Also find out if your inhaler has sugar — strange, but true in some cases. If it does, ask for an alternative medication without sugar.
  3. Use fluoridated mouthwash and toothpaste (adults and children over 3 years old). 
  4. Rinse your mouth with water after using your nebulizer or inhaler. 
  5. Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water and if your mouth seems dry, drink more. 
  6. Use artificial saliva, like Biotene, which comes in flavored spray, gum, gel, and other forms.
  7. Treat seasonal allergies before seasonal asthma strikes, if possible. 

Add a Holistic Dentist to Your Healthcare Team

For dentists who read up on the latest research and take a whole-body, whole-lifestyle approach to diagnosing and treating oral health, call Well Rooted Dentistry in Providence, RI. Our team believes that oral health and general health are interwoven. After all, what’s in your mouth has direct access to the internal organs of your body! Call today to schedule a consultation for you or your child: (401) 443-4007.


NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3213714/
Chicago Tribune: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2004-05-30-0405300364-story.html
Asthma.net: https://asthma.net/clinical/oral-health

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