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Wheezy? Brush up and bring your inhaler

December 16, 2002

More than 14 million Americans, or about seven percent of the population, have asthma, representing an 85 percent increase in asthma in the past 18 years.

Today, dentists see more asthmatic patients taking medication, leading to increased cavities, bad breath and gum problems, and many forgetting to bring inhalers to dental visits causing more in-office asthma attacks, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

Asthmatic adults and children have trouble with their air exchange and have a tendency to be mouth breathers, which when combined with asthma medications, such as corticosteriods, causes a low saliva flow, known as dry mouth. Without saliva's cleansing effects, asthma patients have a higher risk for increased cavities and bad breath. In those that aren't vigilant about brushing and flossing, gingivitis can occur, oftentimes leading to gum disease.

Also, asthma inhalers may irritate the back roof of the mouth, causing a reddish lesion, which creates an opportunistic infection that if ignored, can spread and affect the throat and rest of the mouth, explains John M. Coke, DDS, lead author of this study that appears in the November/December 2002 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy's clinical, peer-reviewed publication.

"Patients who have a history of asthma and experience dental anxiety need to tell their dentist about their disease," advises Eric Z. Shapira, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy. "Doing so can help prevent an asthmatic attack during dental procedures."

Tips for Asthmatic Patients
  • Inform dentist of condition
  • Explain if asthma is controlled
  • Inform dentist of all asthma and other medications
  • After inhaler use, rinse mouth with water
  • Consider sealants
  • Be vigilant about brushing and flossing
-end-


Academy of General Dentistry

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