Iatrogenic is the term for adverse effects caused by diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.


Saliva rinses the mouth and cleans the teeth between meals, neutralizing acids produced by bacteria and allowing the teeth to remineralize. Decreased saliva flow results in dry mouth (xerostomia), which promotes caries and periodontal disease.

Commonly prescribed medications produce xerostomia, including:

  • Steroids (e.g. prednisone)
  • Antihistamines (e.g. diphenhydramine)
  • Diuretics (e.g. furosemide)
  • Antihypertensives (e.g. beta-blockers)
  • Opioids (e.g. codeine)
  • Antidepressants (e.g. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and lithium)

Severe Adult Caries

Steven Lepowsky, DDS
Steven Lepowsky, DDS

Many additional classes of medications can have adverse intraoral effects:


Wolff A, Joshi RK, Ekström J, et al. A Guide to Medications Inducing Salivary Gland Dysfunction, Xerostomia, and Subjective Sialorrhea: A Systematic Review Sponsored by the World Workshop on Oral Medicine VI. Drugs R D. 2017; 17(1): 1-28.