Is Cough Syrup Bad for Teeth?

Cough syrup is a common remedy for alleviating the symptoms of a cold or flu, but have you ever wondered about its impact on your oral health? In this blog post, we’ll explore if cough syrup can cause cavities & delve into the ingredients that might be harmful to your teeth.

Ingredients in Cough Medicine that are Harmful to Your Teeth

Many individuals may not be aware of the potential dental implications of using cough syrup. Tooth decay is a concern that could lead to future dental issues, making it crucial to understand the impact of cough syrup on your teeth.

Flavoring & Acidity Levels

One aspect to consider is the effect of flavoring & its acidity levels. Ingredients that are high in acidity, such as citric acid that is found in cold medicine, wear down the enamel of your teeth. This eventually makes them more susceptible to cavities & tooth decay. Additionally, some antihistamine syrups can contain low pH levels & high acidity levels, which also leave your teeth susceptible to decay.

Sugar Content

Sugar is a well-known culprit when it comes to tooth decay. Bacteria in your mouth feeds on sugars like high fructose corn syrup & sucrose. When the sugars break down, they turn into acid & attack the enamel, causing it to break down.

Alcohol Content

The alcohol content in cough medicine is another factor to consider when considering tooth health. Alcohol can have a drying effect on your mouth. With less saliva in your mouth, the sugars & acidity from the cough syrup will remain in your mouth longer. This can also contribute to increased tooth decay & cavities.

How to Reduce the Effects of Cough Syrup on Your Teeth

Though not using cough syrup at all would be the best option, that’s just sometimes not possible. To combat the negative effects of cough syrup on your teeth, it’s essential to adopt preventive measures.

Some common tips to keep your mouth clean while using cough syrup include: 

  • Take liquid medication around mealtimes instead of right before bedtime. This way, the saliva produced from chewing your meal will help wash away the sugars & acids from the cold medicine. 
  • Drink water or chew sugar-free gum after taking the liquid medication so the medication will not linger in your mouth.
  • If possible, choose the pill form of the medication instead of the syrup.

Do I Need to Brush My Teeth After Cough Syrup?

You can brush your teeth after taking cough syrup – but wait at least 30 minutes before doing so. Brushing right after drinking an acidic substance can cause enamel erosion on your teeth. Wait for your enamel to harden before brushing your teeth.

Are Cough Drops Also Bad for Your Teeth?

Cough drops can be as bad for your teeth as cough medicine. But, if you take the same measures as you would with cough syrup, you can still protect your teeth. Remember to rinse your mouth with water, or brush afterward, as you would with normal candy. Or, switch to sugar-free cough drops, to avoid the cavities all together.


Being mindful of the potential effects of cough syrup on your teeth is important for maintaining optimal oral health. If you have concerns about cavities or other general dentistry issues, remember that you can always turn to Lakeview Dental Care’s team of professionals. Prioritizing your oral health is a key step towards a healthier & happier you.

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Cough syrup & your teeth

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