Cough Syrup And Cavities

Cough_Syrup_CDCIt’s that time of year when coughs, colds and flu can make your child’s life miserable. And like most people, you’ll probably reach for an over-the-counter medication to ease their symptoms. But did you know that spoonful of medicine could add tooth decay to their list of side effects?

Many cough drops and liquid medications contain a variety of ingredients that make your child’s teeth more susceptible to decay, especially if they take their medicine and then go to bed without brushing.  Ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and sucrose contribute to decay when the bacteria in their mouth feed on the sugars, breaking them down and forming acids that attack the enamel of their teeth.  Ingredients such as citric acid can wear down the enamel of their teeth. In addition, some antihistamine syrups contain low pH levels and high acidity, which can be a dangerous combination for their teeth.

These risks can be magnified if medication is taken before bedtime. The effects of taking liquid medication before bedtime aren’t much different than drinking juice or soda before bedtime – because they produce less saliva while they sleep, sugar and acids remain in contact with the teeth longer, increasing your child’s risk for decay.

What can you do?

There are things you can do to lessen the effects of the sugars and acids in liquid medication.

  • Give your child liquid medication at meal times instead of bedtime so that more saliva is produced to rinse away the sugars and acids.
  • Have your child brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste after taking medication.
  • If they can’t brush, have them rinse their mouth well with water or chew sugar-free gum after taking liquid medication.
  • If your child has the ability to swallow pills, choose a pill form of the medication instead of syrup.

Children’s Dental Center believes that education is the key to preventing childhood tooth decay.  We’re committed to providing a forum where parents and pediatric dental professionals can discuss preventative dental care.  We encourage parents, educators and doctors to check back frequently for more fun facts, articles and activities!

Source: “Medications and cough syrups may cause cavities.” Academy of General Dentistry,

Tags: , , , , ,