The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America notes that as many as 50 million Americans are affected by allergies annually. If you are one of these people who have allergies, you may not think to tell your dentist. But it’s important to let them know, as some allergens can affect your dental health. Here’s what you need to know about sharing your allergies with your dentist.
What are seasonal allergies?
Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis, affect millions of people all over the world during certain times of the year. It’s caused by an increase in airborne allergens such as pollen from trees, plants and grasses, as well as mold spores. During the spring, trees are often the primary source of pollen. Grass pollen is more common in the summer, and weed pollen is more prevalent in the fall. In addition to pollen, seasonal allergies can also be triggered by other allergens such as dust mites and animal dander.
Symptoms of seasonal allergies can include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Itchy throat, nose, or ears
- Postnasal drip
How do allergies affect your oral health?
So why should you tell your dentist about your allergies? The simple answer is because seasonal allergies can have a significant impact on your oral health if left unaddressed. Here are some of the ways that seasonal allergies can affect your oral health:
Causes Dry Mouth
When your nose is congested or irritated due to allergies, you are likely to breathe through your mouth. This can lead to dry mouth. Taking antihistamine medications can also lead to dry mouth since decongestants work by drying out the mucus membranes. Saliva is essential for maintaining good oral health because it helps to neutralize acids, wash away food particles and bacteria, and prevent tooth decay. When the mouth is dry, the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections increases. If you are battling seasonal allergies, it is important to drink plenty of water throughout the day and speak with your dentist to discuss other preventative measures you can take in order to mitigate dry mouth and protect your oral health.
Causes Bad Breath
Allergic rhinitis can also cause bad breath due to postnasal drip. This is when mucus accumulates in the back of your throat and causes irritation accompanied by a foul odor. Additionally, when your mouth is dry due to seasonal allergies, bacteria can easily accumulate in your mouth and cause bad breath. While brushing may help bad breath due to excess bacteria, bad breath caused by postnasal drip will only fade when the irritation ceases.
Causes Tooth Pain and Sensitivity
Allergies can cause swelling and inflammation in the sinuses, which are located in the facial bones surrounding the nose. This swelling can put pressure on the teeth, causing pain, sensitivity, or discomfort. This is especially common in the upper teeth, which are closest to the sinuses. In some cases, congestion caused by allergies can also lead to teeth grinding or clenching during sleep. This can cause tooth pain, especially if it happens on a regular basis. To determine the cause of your tooth pain, it is important to consult with your dentist.
How can you manage your oral health while managing your allergies?
Managing your oral health while managing your allergies is important for maintaining good overall health. Here are some tips to help manage your oral health while dealing with allergies:
- Keep your mouth and teeth clean: Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day to remove food particles and bacteria from your mouth. This can help to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, which can be exacerbated by dry mouth caused by allergies.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist and to help flush out allergens and bacteria from your mouth.
- Rinse your mouth: Use a saline rinse or mouthwash to help flush out allergens from your mouth and to reduce inflammation and irritation. It may also be helpful to gargle warm salt water to decrease bacteria and irritation in the throat.
- Avoid mouth breathing: Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth, especially while sleeping, to reduce dry mouth and tooth grinding. The best way to do this is to take decongestant medication before going to bed.
- Manage your allergy symptoms: Take medications as prescribed by your doctor or allergist to manage your allergy symptoms. This can help to reduce inflammation and congestion in the sinuses, which can lead to tooth pain and sensitivity.
- Visit your dentist regularly: Schedule regular checkups with your dentist to monitor your oral health and to address any concerns or issues that may arise. While it is recommended to visit your dentist at least once every six months, your dentist may recommend more frequent visits during allergy seasons.
- Consider allergy testing: If you have persistent or severe allergy symptoms, consider allergy testing to identify the specific allergens that trigger your symptoms. This can help you to better manage your allergies and reduce their impact on your oral health.
By following these tips and working with your healthcare providers, you can effectively manage your oral health while dealing with allergies.
Seasonal allergies are a common problem that can have an impact on your oral health. Besides causing nasal congestion, fatigue, and headaches, allergies can also cause a variety of oral health issues, including dry mouth, bad breath, tooth pain and sensitivity. To help manage your oral health while dealing with allergies, it is important to keep your teeth clean, stay hydrated, use a saline rinse or mouthwash, avoid mouth breathing, manage your allergy symptoms, and visit your dentist regularly.
Dr. Gerald Sisko graduated from Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1987. He is an active member of the American Dental Association, the Ohio Dental Association, and the Akron Dental Society where he is currently holding a council position. He has had the honor and distinction of being awarded “TOP DENTIST” in Akron and Cleveland as well as Northeast Ohio for the last several consecutive years.