Nutritional supplements and how they can affect your teeth Image

10 MAY 2022

Nutritional supplements and how they can affect your teeth

Many people have the view that everyday vitamin and mineral supplements only do good for our health and wellbeing. In fact, around 2/3 of the Australian population take dietary supplements with this understanding.  Though it’s worth remembering that all drugs, including medications and nutritional supplements, carry a risk of side effects. Commonly, the more supplements which are taken, the higher the risk.

It’s also important to weigh up the benefits against the risk of harm in taking any substance which can cause changes in how the body works.

Adverse effects of supplements on oral health

In relation to oral health, side effects from certain supplements can increase the risk of infection, bleeding and inflammation (swelling) and even slow down healing. Supplements may also interact with other medications being taken and enhance, or reduce, their effectiveness. 

In the experience of pharmacy experts, drug interactions are often under-identified and the general public largely unaware of adverse health effects of taking supplements.

It’s important to tell your dentist if you are taking any medication, including vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements. So at your dental appointments, bring a list of any medications, including supplements, that you’re taking. Bring the actual bottle/s or container/s, otherwise, a clear photo so your dentist can check if they’re safe to take and offer you professional guidance.  

Other adverse effects

There are well-known risks of some of the popular ingredients in many nutritional supplements:

  • Tooth (and skin) staining from iron supplements and some ingredients in herbal teas.
  • Many herbal supplements also contain aspirin which can affect the clotting mechanism of blood. This means there is an increased risk of bleeding for any dental procedure. 
  • Some herbal ingredients contribute to the risk of developing a dry mouth (xerostomia), which increases the risk of cavities.
  • Many herbal supplements are contained in a lolly or ‘gummy’ form. These contain sugar which increases the risk of decay.
  • Echinacea increases the risk of infection, because it promotes inflammation which impacts healing.
  • Turmeric, although popular, increases the risk of bleeding.

What other harm is there in taking supplements?

Supplements are still drugs, even though they may not be marketed as such. In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) inspects products and ensures they comply with relevant codes, though problems arise when products don’t contain what is stated and when they are in inaccurate concentrations. 

Although the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated, the complimentary medicine industry is not.

Even though supplements are often marketed as being ‘natural’ this is not a guarantee that they are harmless. It’s still possible to be allergic to ingredients and have an adverse reaction to them. It can be difficult to identify the exact cause of a reaction because many supplements are a combination of ingredients, at varying concentrations and not always included in the product information.

There can also be a cost to the individual in delaying more effective treatment, in the hope that taking a supplement will treat a condition. 

Speak with your dentist and all your healthcare providers to let them know all of the medications and supplements you are taking. Book an appointment today to see your dentist.