Can your digestive problems affect your teeth?

Can your digestive problems affect your teeth?

Your stomach acid can impact your oral environment, just as oral health can affect your gastrointestinal health and teeth.

The mouth is the starting point of the chemical and physical digestion process, playing a considerable role that impacts digestive health for better or worse. Good oral hygiene and dietary habits may result in a healthy gut microbiome and vice versa. 

We know of heartburn (acid reflux), constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where stomach acid flows up the oesophagus into the mouth, leading to the erosion of teeth enamel. 

Other gastrointestinal disorders

Other gastrointestinal disorders that occur either in the small or large intestines include colon polyps, colitis, diverticular diseases, perianal infections, anal fistulas, fissures, haemorrhoids, and certain cancers. 

According to Dr Ravi Doctor, mouth sores, infection, bleeding gums, swollen gums are all effects seen in people’s mouths. This is especially true in children suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  

Some symptoms of these conditions include:

  • weight loss,
  • fatigue,
  • blood in the stool,
  • abdominal pain,
  • diarrhoea,
  • bloating and problems with swallowing,
  • nausea,
  • bad breath,
  • and vomiting.

These conditions are due to stress, allergies to medications, unhealthy diet, smoking and drinking habits.

The medications for gastrointestinal diseases, such as IBD, could cause gingivitis, dry mouth or an inflamed tongue. While the side effects of medication for peptic ulcers are a black tongue, dry mouth and changes to your sense of taste. 

Any conditions linked to digestion, liver, pancreas, stomach ulcers, and kidney disorders generally cause bad breath, which results from bad oral health and unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, and eating the wrong foods. Periodontal bacteria usually cause bad breath, and gut bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori), also found in ulcer sores, can also be found in the mouth. 

The diseases and the effects

Far away from the site of the digestive disease, symptoms may appear in tissues in or around the mouth. 

This may even occur before a medical diagnosis of the disease in its earlier stages when nutrients aren’t assimilated properly due to malabsorption in the bowel. Signs in the oral cavity may appear before obvious intestinal abnormalities, says GI Society – Canadian Society of Intestinal Research.

Both dentists and doctors should be informed of conditions on either side of the gastrointestinal tract. Persistent gum disease and the over-proliferation of harmful bacterial populations could cause cancer – oral, pancreatic or colorectal cancers.

Diagnosis and treatment would require the integrative skills of gastroenterologists, radiologists and surgeons and dentists and oral medicine specialists,

These are the main diseases that impact the oral cavity, as well: 

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD, Chrohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and ulcerative colitis: These are usually present in the mouth – oral lesions, bad breath, small pockets of inflammation or granulomas, swollen lips, gums and oral tissues which causes eating difficulties. Other conditions include coughing, chest pain, red throat and a bad taste in the mouth. The patterns – swelling, lesions, inflammation, ulcers and fissures that occur in the mouth are usually repeated further down the oesophagus and intestines. 
  • Acid Reflux – gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hiatus hernia: regurgitation of highly acidic stomach acids occur, which increases oral acidity, and this leads to tooth enamel being eroded or dissolved
  • Celiac disease (CD: this is an autoimmune condition where consumption of gluten causes malabsorption. CD manifests in the oral cavity with dental enamel defects, delayed eruption, recurring aphthous stomatitis, and oral ulcerative disease. Treat these conditions with a gluten-free diet.
  • Jaundice: the yellow discolouration from increased bilirubin in the blood taints the skin, eyes and mouth, especially under the tongue and the soft palate. Jaundice will turn children’s teeth a yellow or greenish tint.
  • Malabsorption Conditions: These are conditions where proper bowel function is compromised and an inability to absorb essential nutrients. Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease fall into this category of disorders, together with medical procedures such as gastric bypass surgery and bowel resection. Certain micronutrients will be absent in the mouth, and there will be iron deficiency anaemia and vitamin B12 malabsorption in pernicious anaemia. In addition, there may be inflammation or infection, or the tongue is sore, bald and red. Ulcers or lesions may manifest a burning sensation, while other parts of the mouth may also be affected. 


With the severity of the various gastrointestinal conditions which adversely affect oral health, an excellent oral hygiene routine, including flossing, brushing twice a day, oil pulling and using mouthwash, doesn’t work, 

Dentists suggest that patients opt for a quarterly dental check-up if they have any gastrointestinal disease, and they may request blood tests be done.  

They also expect patients to provide information on all the medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements and alternative medicines that they are taking. 

Only once they have compiled an entire case study of recent medical history will they do:

  • A thorough check-up with X-rays
  • Suggest treatment that includes the correct toothbrushes, toothpaste and rinses to use.

These treatments are usually provided as a means to protect the oral cavity and microbiome from further damage. 

Affinity Dental

Consult a dental professional about any changes to your mouth or teeth. Never attempt to do any of your dental work. Dentistry is a trained professional that takes years of study. 

Affinity Dental has different levels of dental insurance cover, depending on your individual needs and budget. Each tier of options covers specific specialist dental work. You decide what you need.


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