It’s commonly acknowledged that stomach acid is damaging to tooth enamel. Regular exposure to stomach acid can cause the erosion of dental enamel, resulting in teeth that are weakened and discolored. These damaged teeth are easily seen and present a cosmetic problem as well as a health problem.
What most people don’t realize is that stomach acid can also cause damage to your gums. The end result is receding gums that will not recover on their own.
Causes of Acid Exposure
The two main reasons why teeth are regularly exposed to stomach acid are intentional vomiting because of an eating disorder like bulimia nervosa or a digestive condition like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
In bulimia nervosa, a person with an unrealistic body image (most commonly women), attempts to achieve or maintain an impossible weight using a purging behavior. The most common purging behavior is intentional vomiting. This exposes the teeth to high amounts of stomach acid, which can lead to the rapid destruction of the dental enamel and damage gums. The acid can lead to receding gums, and once the gums have receded, they won’t grow back.
Chronic purging can also result in other dental and health problems such as:
- Cavities and increased cavity development
- Hoarse voice
- Dry mouth
- Bleeding and painful gums
- Salivary gland enlargement
- Decreased saliva production
- Cracked, broken, or missing teeth
- Chewing difficulty
- Esophageal damage
- Salivary gland enlargement
- Soft palate damage
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Chronic sore throat
- Arthritis and bone issues
- Dire heart
- Digestive problems
It’s important for anyone who suffers from bulimia or knows of anyone suffering, to get help immediately. Without treatment, the condition can result in death or irreversible health damage. Most patients require psychiatric help to treat their condition as well as help from dietitians, therapists, and medical physicians. They will also need dental treatments to bring the teeth and gums back to health.
If you or someone you know is suffering from bulimia or another eating disorder like anorexia nervosa, please seek medical help as soon as possible. While you’re in the process of getting help. You can take a few preventive measures to prevent bulimia teeth problems.
GERD is when acid from the stomach is bubbling up through the esophagus and into the mouth. Most often, people experience pain in the throat, a burning sensation that is often called “heartburn.” In some cases, though, there is no pain, and we have what is known as “silent GERD.” In this case, dental symptoms might be the most easily identified symptoms. By the time it’s noticed, the damage will typically be too great to recover on its own.
Although GERD is the result of frequent acid reflux, certain factors can increase the risk of GERD. These include:
- Hiatal hernia
- Scleroderma and other connective tissue disorders
- Delayed stomach emptying
Other factors that can aggravate acid reflux include
- Eating large meals
- Certain foods including fried or fatty foods
- Eating late at night
- Drinking certain drinks such as coffee or alcohol
- Medications such as aspirin
If you’re suffering from GERD, you might not notice pain symptoms, but you might notice some of the other symptoms such as:
- Trouble breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
- Regurgitation of food or liquid (sour)
- Burning sensation in your chest after eating that becomes worse at night
Diet and lifestyle changes in addition to medications like Prilosec can help ease your symptoms of GERD and acid reflux symptoms. It will also help protect your teeth and gums from further damage. If you notice any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor about them as soon as possible. Otherwise, you won’t just damage your teeth and gums, but also potentially end up with disrupted sleep, laryngitis, new or worsening asthma, or a chronic cough.
Repairing Your Gums and Teeth
Before we can repair your gums, it’s vital that you identify the cause of your receding gums and get them treated. If bulimia or GERD is the cause, you need to speak with your physician about treatment. Once you’re on the path to recovery, and the damage to your gums stops, we can use nonsurgical gum rejuvenation to get your gums back in shape. The treatment is simple and makes a huge difference in your oral health and smile appearance.
For bulimics, getting gum treatment can be an essential part of getting past the illness and starting a new, healthier life.
After repairing your gums, we will discuss other dental treatments you might need to restore your teeth back to health. This can include veneers, fillings, root canals, dental crowns, and replacement teeth if you’ve lost any teeth in the process. We can help you get your teeth and gums back to their healthy usual self.