Are Kids at Risk for Dental Problems from OTC Medicated Syrups?

posted in: Pediatric Dentistry | 0

Our hearts go out to our kids when they’re ill. We want to help them feel better faster. That’s why there are many over-the-counter (OTC) medications for kids that help relieve cold, flu, and allergy symptoms. But do these syrups affect your child’s dental health?

Little girl hiding her face.

Syrups are one of the most common forms of medication delivery for children — especially kids who are too young to swallow pills. But a recent study published by the Dentistry Journal found that children’s OTC oral liquids, like cold and flu remedies, can increase your child’s chances of tooth decay and cavities.

It’s got to be the sugar, right?

Many parents recall the musical advice of Mary Poppins regarding a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. And, yes, while children’s medication sweetened with sugars (like glucose or fructose) do increase a child’s odds of cavities, you might be surprised to learn that even “sugar-free” options increase enamel erosion.


The main culprit is acidity.  

The stabilizers that keep the medicine effective and the flavoring that makes the liquid taste “good enough” for children to swallow contribute to higher levels of acidity. Those higher levels of acidity actually work to dissolve tooth enamel — and that leaves the teeth vulnerable to cavities.

No parent likes to clean up syrup stains from the carpet when junior — already not feeling his best — decides to knock the little cup out of mommy’s hand because he doesn’t like the taste of the icky medicine. That’s why children’s oral syrups walk a fine line between giving children medication that works and making the taste of the syrup palatable enough so children actually swallow the dosage.

Medicated Syrups: Tips for Protecting Your Children’s Teeth

It won’t come as a surprise to you to hear that medications that come in syrup form are sticky. That means that the syrup can cling to your child’s teeth. And if you are giving your child a syrup at bedtime to relieve cold or allergy symptoms, the acid in that syrup has a longer time to act on your child’s teeth.

How can you minimize the negative dental effects while keeping the positive effects of the medicine?

1. Add Water

Diluting the dosage with water will make the syrup less “sticky” and reduce the amount of coating to your children’s teeth. Just make sure that your child gets the recommend dosage amount in the process.

2. Use a Straw

It might sound weird to you, but having your child use a straw actually reduces the amount of liquid in your child’s mouth. It’s like aiming the medicine toward the back of the throat.

3. Rinse!

Once the recommended dosage is on its way to the tummy, have your child rinse his/her mouth with a little water. This will help remove any lingering syrup, and it stimulates natural salivation, which is a good thing to help protect tooth enamel.

Kids Need Gentle Dentistry Too!

The best time for kids to see a family dentist is before they need to see a dentist! Regular check-ups are a great way to encourage kids to become responsible for the care of their teeth.

Just like with our adult patients, Boger Dental treats our youngest patients with care and understanding. We want your child to be happy and healthy for many years to come, and proper dental care is an important part of that equation.

Contact our kid-friendly staff today for child’s next dental appointment!