Medications to control asthma, may predispose to dry mouth syndrome ( xerostomia) and caries. Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina decided to examine whether there was a connection between the two most common causes of absenteeism among school children asthma and caries.
In 655 patients between ages 1 and 15, they found that the numbers of decayed, missing and filled teeth were significantly higher in those who had been diagnosed with asthma. Almost one in five of patients studied (125) were diagnosed asthmatics. Investigators suspect that asthma medications like albuterol can contribute to xerostomia, making individuals who use asthma medications more susceptible to caries and periodontal disease.
Dr. Carlos Salinas, professor and director of the Division of Craniofacial Genetics and the Craniofacial Anomalies and Cleft Palate Team at the MUSC dental school, heads a program to bring dental care to individuals with special health care needs."In a follow-up study, we examined data from 65 more patients and found similar results," Dr. Salinas says. "We need to continue to look at this. The patients we studied originally were patients at our dental school clinic, not a totally random sample. We want to examine whether socioeconomic issues also affect the data, but our preliminary results show we definitely need to take a closer look."
He hopes extended research will allow researchers to compare caries in patients with different levels of clinical severity of asthma as well as patients in different geographic and socioeconomic environments.Dr. Salinas notes that children with asthma who had the highest caries rates tended to be those who were young, usually under age 5.
"A pulmonologist told me that would be consistent with the patterns he sees in pediatric asthma patients," Dr. Salinas notes. "Use of albuterol to control acute asthma tends to decrease as kids get older and as many as 75 percent of children who had asthma when they were younger than age 5 will outgrow it."