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Choosing the Right Cough Drop & Cough Syrup

Unfortunately, it’s the time of year when coughs, colds and flus can make your life miserable.  Like most people, you probably reach for an over-the-counter medicine to help ease the symptoms.  But did you know that one of the side effects of that medicine could be tooth decay?

You see, not all cough drops and liquid medications are created equal.  In fact, many contain high amounts of sugar along with high amounts of acid – a bad combination for your teeth!  If you suffer from dry mouth, sucking on certain cough drops can actually lead to loss of tooth enamel. 

Many cough drops and liquid medications contain ingredients that make your teeth more susceptible to decay:

  • High fructose corn syrup and sucrose contribute to decay, when the bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars, breaking them down and forming acids that attack your tooth’s enamel.
  • Citric acid can also wear down the enamel of your teeth.  Some antihistamine syrups also contain low pH levels and high acidity, which is a threatening combination for your teeth.
  • Some popular cold and cough syrups also contain alcohol, which has a drying effect on the mouth.  Saliva helps to naturally rinse the sugars and acids away, but with less saliva present, the sugars and acids remain in your mouth longer.

Taking these medicines at night, before bedtime, can magnify these risks.  The effect of taking liquid medication before bedtime is not much different than drinking juice or soda right before bedtime.