Is Your Cough Medicine Making Your Teeth Sick?

added on: January 21, 2015

Cough syrup and your teethCoughs, stuffiness, colds, and the flu are at their peak this time of year. While we all try our best to keep germs away by washing our hands, avoiding other sick people, and exercising, there are times when catching the bug is basically unavoidable. At our dental offices in Reston and Manassas, our goal is to help keep our patients’ oral and overall health in tip-top shape, and we’d like to share some surprising information about some of the medicine that’s meant to make you feel better.

Cough remedies like suppressing syrups or soothing drops help to ease your discomfort, however they not only have the traditional side effects like dizziness and queasiness that go hand in hand with any medication, they can also contribute to tooth decay.

The ingredients in many popular over-the-counter medications have been proven to lead to tooth decay and cavities.

High Fructose Corn Syrup & Sucrose

This duo of sugars is particularly dangerous to teeth. When these ingredients enter the mouth, bacteria begin to feed on them. This causes the sugars to break down into acids which are dangerous to the tooth enamel.


Alcohol reduces saliva production and may cause a mouth to become dry. In a normal mouth, quite a bit of saliva is produced every day – about 10,000 gallons in a lifetime! This saliva is great for the health of teeth since it helps wash away the dangerous sugars and acids that can lead to cavities.

So should you just suffer through the annoying symptoms of a cold? Not necessarily. There are a few ways to decrease your risk of cough syrup induced tooth damage.

  • Trying taking the medication as a pill instead of a liquid. This will greatly decrease or eliminate the duration of dangerous ingredients lingering on teeth.
  • Don’t take cough syrup right before bed. Saliva production naturally decreases at night, and since cough medicine also decreases saliva production, there is much greater risk for decay.
  • Take liquid medicine with a meal when saliva production is greater.
  • Brush your teeth after a dose of cough suppressant.

From all of us at our Reston and Manassas dental offices, we hope you’re having a healthy winter. However, if this cold and flu season isn’t so kind and you find yourself under the weather, be careful  of how and when you take cough medicine, and keep your teeth healthy in the process.

Serving patients from Reston, Manassas, Northern Virginia, and surrounding areas.