Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dr. Oz? Dr, Please!

Dr. Oz is a very highly regarded cardio-thoracic surgeon, and has made quite a name for himself on his popular daytime TV show. Apparently, he offers some useful health information. Oprah loves him. The public loves him. I don’t.

On a recent episode, he had a 10 minute segment on a condition known as dry mouth. As a dentist, I see and treat dry mouth frequently. In fact, dentists are the first line of defense for dry mouth. The technical term is “xerostomia” and it affects a large portion of the population. Believe it or not, the main cause of dry mouth is prescription medications!

Yes, the very medications that keep you alive often have a side effect that can ruin your teeth. It is so common that there isn’t just one type of medication that causes it--it can be from almost any kind of medication. Also, the more medications you take, the greater the chance of you developing xerostomia. For each medication you add, your risk rises exponentially!

So who cares? Drink a glass of water and be done with it, right? Wrong! You need saliva. Specifically, your teeth need saliva! By far, the #1 detrimental affect of low salivary flow is tooth decay, and lots of it. I have seen dry mouth ruin a mouth that has been healthy for 70 years prior. If you think you might have xerostomia, make sure you see your dentist regularly. The cavities in these patients move quickly and need to be found in the early stages. Treatment may be as simple as switching your medication.

So why don’t I love Dr. Oz?

Not once during his entire segment, did he address the number one cause of dry mouth (medication), the number one consequence of dry mouth (rampant cavities), or explain the proper thing to do (see a dentist). Instead, he had a visually appealing demonstration where an audience member dripped some water on cotton candy to simulate how saliva aids in digestion. His suggestions for treating dry mouth were to eat less salty food, drink more water, and chew sugar free gum. SERIOUSLY?!?!? Dr. Oz is supposed to be the foremost authority on anything medical, and this is the best he can do? Not one mention of cavities? Not one mention of medications? Not one mention that dry mouth may be a symptom of diabetes? Not one mention of visiting with your dentist? The public needs to know that this can be an orally debilitating condition. Just drinking a glass of water before bed isn’t going to do anything other than raise your midnight plumbing bill.

I am sure you are a great surgeon, but please stop talking about the mouth, Dr. Oz, and leave that to the doctors who actually treat it. For more information, check out the ADA’s website at