Dry mouth is the most frequent side effect of medications taken by adults and can lead to aggressive and rampant decay, quickly destroying teeth. Evaluating the correlation between a person’s medications and oral health is the goal of a new study awarded to Szilvia Arany, D.M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor with Eastman Institute for Oral Health.
“Decreased saliva production and dry mouth can range from being a nuisance to something that has a major impact on patients’ general health, oral health, appetite and food enjoyment,” said Dr. Arany. “Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can also lead to soft tissue damage, problems with speaking and swallowing, aggressive bacterial colonization, and upper respiratory tract infections.”
About 500 different medications block the normal function of the salivary glands, and 20 percent of the U.S. adult population now takes five or more drugs.
“While the saliva secretion is very sensitive to these medications,” Dr. Arany explained, “information on the oral health side effects is minimal. Saliva is fundamental to oral health and is a significant determining factor for the quality of life.”
Her five-year study, funded by the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research, part of National Institutes for Health, will explore potential genetic markers for dry mouth, by genotyping certain liver enzymes to predict oral health damages and reduced saliva secretion.
“This particular NIDCR award not only funds promising and innovating research, but it is also designed to help new investigators with their career development,” said Professor Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, D.D.S., M.P.H., director, EIOH’s Clinical and Translational Research Core, and Dr. Arany’s mentor.
“Our patient population at Eastman Institute’s Specialty Care Clinic includes a high number of middle-aged and older adult patients with complex medical-socio-psychological issues who are at risk for dry mouth because multiple medications are often necessary for those with chronic diseases,” Dr. Arany explained.
Dr. Arany hopes to close the gap in identifying high-risk xerostomia patients in the middle-aged population before they reach older ages when damage to oral health is irreversible. “High-risk patients could be selected to receive prevention and targeted treatment.”
Additionally, a better understanding could help patients suffering with oral dryness due to other diseases and conditions, such as Sjogren’s, autoimmunity conditions, and diabetes.