Persons taking antidepressant medication are at increased risk of developing dental cavities and oral infections, researchers warn.
This is because antidepressants cause "dry mouth" by reducing the ability to secrete saliva, according to F. P. M. L. Peeters, MD, and M.W. DeVries, MD, of Maastricht University and A. Vissink, DDS, PhD, of University Hospital Groningen, The Netherlands.
Recent years have seen both improved detection of depression and the "almost universal application" of antidepressants for treating it, they write, but the dry mouth effect of the medication "often goes unrecognized by physicians or dentists." Instead, dentists often assume that cavities or infections are the result of poor oral hygiene.
Patients, they say, should be told about the dental risks involved in using antidepressants.
Peeters and his colleagues also recommend: "Prevention should be incorporated in the clinical management of depressed patients. Clinically, complaints of oral dryness should be elicited at every stage of antidepressant treatment. In cases of long-term treatment, attention to the oral health of the patient should be part of routine clinical practice."
Saliva is needed both to clean the smooth surfaces of the teeth and to "remineralize"' them, the researchers write in the current issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.
Two studies in nursing homes reported in 1986 and 1991 found that 47 to 74 percent of the residents were prescribed one or more medications that could reduce saliva secretion; antidepressants accounted for 12 to 26 percent of these.
General Hospital Psychiatry is a peer-reviewed research journal published bimonthly by Elsevier Science. For information about the journal, contact the editor, Dr. Don Lipsitt, at (617) 499-5008.