Your digestive system begins with your mouth, where saliva lubricates your food and begins to break it down. Food then travels down your esophagus to your stomach where acids break down the food. Nutrients are absorbed through your intestines (both small and large) before whatever you can’t use is eliminated from your body.
Though it’s easy to see how mouth and throat problems would affect your mouth, you may not realize that problems in other areas of your digestive system can also affect your mouth and teeth.
For example: heartburn, acid reflux, or GERD (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease) can send stomach acid back up to your mouth. If this only happens once in a while, it’s probably not too harmful, but if it is happening often the acid can erode (or thin) your tooth enamel. Thinner tooth enamel can lead to sensitive teeth, teeth that look darker or duller (because the underlying dentin layer is what provides our tooth color), and a better chance that you’ll develop cavities.
Frequent vomiting (for whatever reason) is another way that the acidic contents of your stomach return to your mouth to erode your teeth. Morning sickness during pregnancy or as a side effect of chemotherapy are two examples of things that might cause frequent vomiting. Frequent induced vomiting (seen in some eating disorders) also causes erosion of the enamel, but there is usually a pattern where the erosion is not seen on lower front teeth due to how person gets himself or herself to gag. You can learn more about how eating disorders affect teeth at this link:
Even some intestinal or bowel diseases can show signs in your mouth! Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel syndrome, can affect your mouth! Unfortunately, the oral lesions of Crohn’s do not tend to correspond to whether the ds. is active elsewhere in your body. Sadly, there is no cure for Crohn’s at this time, though effects of the disease can be managed with diet and medications.
So hopefully you can see that even though some parts of your digestive system are far away from your mouth, they can still cause problems that affect your mouth. If you do have digestive issues, you may need to work with both your dentist and your physician to solve the problem and keep your teeth healthy!
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who sees patients of all ages at her office located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. Call 440-960-1940 to schedule your appointment!