Cough Medicine and Your Child's Teeth

It's the middle of winter which means it's peak cold and flu season. No matter how hard you try to protect your kids from these annual illnesses, they still seem to somehow catch them. While having a child with a cold instead of the flu is less of a headache and concern, the discomfort experienced by your child from the uncomfortable symptoms of congestion, coughing, running nose and sore throat can temporarily make your child's life nonetheless miserable.

You want to reduce and shorten the duration of your child's cold symptoms. Some of the first things you grab from your arsenal are cough syrup and throat lozenges. While your child may not like the taste of the cough syrup, he or she has no problem with the throat lozenge. Even if these medications don't immediately soothe the coughing and sore throat symptoms, at least the lozenges have a tolerable taste and are reminiscent of hard candy. It is typical that sore throat symptoms get worse in the evening before bed time and you don't think twice about letting your child suck on a lozenge as they drift off to sleep (granted your child is old enough and won't choke on the lozenge).

The Effects of Cough Medicine on Teeth

While you and your child are hopefully fast asleep, little do either of you know what is going inside your child's mouth as he or she sucks on a lozenge.

Though both cough syrup and throat lozenges contain medicine to help treat and soothe their respective cold symptoms, both contain high levels of sugar. Lozenges are the worst of the two as they slowly break down inside the mouth instead of getting swallowed in one little gulp.

Throat lozenges, also commonly called cough drops are similar to hard candy in how they can increase one's risk of tooth decay. It is not advisable for children to regularly consume hard candies just like the intake of stick candy should be limited. Hard candies and throat lozenges have an unique way of causing potential damage to one's teeth because of their slow to dissolve nature.

Cavities are formed when debris and sugar accumulate on the surface of the teeth. The enzymes in saliva interacts with the sugar and bacteria to produce a film that creates plaque and eats away at the tooth enamel. The damage of this reaction on one's teeth will be less if the teeth are promptly brushed or the mouth is rinsed with water. Since throat lozenges take time to fully dissolve and they are often taken at night as the child is going to bed, the sugars of the lozenges have all night to harden into plaque and eat away at the layers of tooth enamel.

Cough syrup and the sugar that is in it can also damage teeth if the teeth aren't brushed and the mouth rinsed out. Many times cough syrup is taken after children brush their teeth. To lower the risk of damage to your child's teeth, consider having your child take the cough syrup first and then follow up with teeth brushing.

Cough medicine can be useful in helping to relieve and alleviate the discomfort of cold symptoms. They can also, however, cause subtle, unnoticeable damage to the teeth in the form of cavities. To minimize the risk of tooth decay from the sugar found in cold medicine, consider avoiding the use of cough drops at night and brushing one's teeth and rinsing the mouth out thoroughly after using a cough drop or ingesting cough syrup.

Besides proper, daily oral hygiene routines, regular dental appointments every six months is also necessary for healthy teeth and gums for your child. If it has been been longer than six months since your child saw their pediatric dentist, contact them today to schedule an appointment.

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