5 medical conditions that can harm your mouth

Medical conditions that can harm your mouth

Did you know that problems in other parts of your body can have consequences for your teeth and gums? From diabetes to ulcers, these illnesses can erode teeth, cause bad breath and even turn your tongue black!

  1. Acid reflux. Your dentist may be the first to notice gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as acid reflux. If you have this condition, a look in your mouth will usually reveal erosion on your back teeth, the result of powerful stomach acid dissolving your enamel. If you experience reflux episodes during the day, protect your teeth by rinsing vigorously with water to reduce acid in your mouth. You may be tempted, but don’t brush your teeth right away — the bristles can damage enamel still soft from the acid. To prevent nighttime reflux, make sure not to eat two to three hours before bed, and avoid triggers like alcohol, caffeine and anything acidic.
  2. Stomach ulcers. Appearing as sores in the lining of your stomach or small intestine, ulcers are often the result of the bacterium H. pylori, which can weaken the protective coating of your stomach. Although ulcers themselves won’t hurt your oral health, the medicine used to combat them can turn your tongue black. Don’t worry — the side effect should go away once you’re through with treatment.
  3. Chronic kidney disease. If there’s something fishy about your breath, visit your doctor. Breath that smells like fish or ammonia can be a sign of kidney disease, a serious condition that is fatal if left untreated. As your kidneys lose their ability to filter waste and toxins from the blood, your breath will take on the scent of your urine.
  4. Diabetes. This widespread inflammatory disease doesn’t just affect your blood sugar. People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease, cavities and even lose their teeth. If you’ve been diagnosed, make sure to tell your dentist, and be especially vigilant in brushing and flossing.
  5. High blood pressure. If you’re among the quarter of Americans with this dangerous condition, you might have something new to worry about. Medication to lower your blood pressure can come with the unwanted side effect of gingival enlargement, a condition in which your gums swell and start to grow over your teeth.

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Published October 2015

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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