If you have high blood pressure, your medical doctor may prescribe calcium channel blockers to help control it. However, that can have a side effect of sore, swollen gums that can be disturbing if you don't expect it.
Calcium channel blockers can cause gingival (gum) overgrowth, said Dr. Michael Quinn, a periodontist who practices at several Coast Dental offices in the Atlanta area. The gums feel swollen, lumpy, hard and thick. They may not bleed and the color remains pink, but the change in texture affects how your mouth looks and feels and your ability to brush and floss. It inhibits your ability to floss between teeth, so bacteria accumulate above and below the gum line. The bacteria attack the bone supporting your teeth, causing the bone to disintegrate and your teeth to loosen.
Fortunately, a change in medication can make a big difference. Dr. Quinn had a patient whose gums were mushrooming after taking the calcium channel blocker his doctor had prescribed (pictured). Dr. Quinn wrote a letter to the physician explaining the side effect and asking for the patient's medication to be changed. Within two months, most of the patient's gum tissue had returned almost to normal, allowing Dr. Quinn to plan treatment to resolve the remaining periodontal conditions.
Several drugs designed to control cardiovascular disease can cause other side effects too, including dry mouth. Saliva helps wash away plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth and can harden into cavity-causing tartar. If the mouth isn't producing enough saliva, the plaque stays longer on the teeth, making them more prone to cavities. Some drugs can also affect how food and beverages taste.
If you're experiencing any of these side effects, talk to your dentist about your options.
Michael Quinn, DMD, MHS, has been a practicing dentist since 1987. He is a Board Certified Periodontist and provides periodontal services to patients starting at age 8. Special services include all periodontal services, bone grafting, crown lengthening, dental implants and restorations, endodontic surgery, extractions, gummy smile treatment, laser treatment, periodontal disease management, pre-prosthetic surgery, ridge augmentation, soft tissue grafts and sinus lift. He practices at several Coast Dental offices in Georgia including ones in Atlanta, Marietta, Fayetteville, Lawrenceville, and Stone Mountain.
Written by: Beth Gaddis
Reviewed by: Michael Quinn, DMD, MHS
Reviewed by: Cindy Roark, DMD