Allergies and oral health

Autumn means vibrant leaves and beautiful scenes, but it also brings irritants that make allergies go haywire. All that sniffling, sneezing and mouth breathing can mean trouble for your teeth. Learn how to keep your teeth happy this season so your oral health doesn’t fall behind.

Around September, allergy triggers begin to flourish. One of the most common fall allergens is ragweed pollen. The lovely fall breeze carries it for hundreds of miles, so even if it doesn’t grow near you, it can still cause your allergies to flare up. Autumn also stirs up mold spores and dust mites, which are known to cause common allergic reactions like runny noses and watery eyes.

While allergies themselves don’t damage teeth, they can indirectly cause mouth problems. One of the most common oral health concerns you might experience is dry mouth. It often appears as a side effect of the antihistamines used to treat allergies or as a result of more frequent mouth breathing your allergies might cause.

Because dry mouth decreases saliva, it can damage teeth and gums. Saliva helps digest food, wash food particles off your teeth, neutralize cavity-causing acids from plaque and more. When you don’t have enough, your risk for tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease increases.

The good news is that remedies are readily available. Relief can be as simple as drinking more water, chewing sugar-free gum, sucking on sugar-free hard candy and sleeping with a humidifier. If these remedies aren’t working, your dentist might suggest treatments like saliva substitutes or medication.

Dry mouth isn’t the only allergy-related mouth condition. The increase in bacteria associated with post-nasal drip, a common allergy symptom, often leads to bad breath. An uptick in mucous production might also cause pressure in the sinus cavity. Because this area sits above the mouth, allergy sufferers sometimes experience toothaches in their top teeth. If either of these happen to you, visit with your physician who may prescribe a decongestant or anti-inflammatory medication.

Allergies can be a pain, but preventing them from hurting your teeth doesn’t have to be. By knowing what to expect and being proactive about your health, you can stay smiling all autumn long.