Healthy digestion begins in the mouth. In fact, even before you take your first bite of a meal, the digestive process gets started as your salivary glands increase their activity. When you chew your food, the chewing action, along with enzymes in your saliva, break down your food into a form that is easier for the rest of your digestive system to handle. Clearly, your mouth plays a huge role in the way your body processes food. But did you know that your symptoms in your mouth can also point to problems in your gut? A dentist in Creve Coeur is here to talk about this fascinating connection.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Crohn’s disease, a type of IBD that causes inflammation throughout the digestive tract, often leads to an increase in dental cavities. In fact, dental problems may occur even before any intestinal symptoms become apparent. This may be due to changes in the mucus that lines the digestive tract, which cause the teeth to become more vulnerable to decay. Some medications used to treat IBD could also increase the risk of cavities.
An insufficient intake of certain vitamins can lead to symptoms within the mouth. For example, a lack of vitamin D can cause lesions on the mouth’s soft tissues; in some cases, it can even cause significant swelling and ulcers on the lips. If you do not consume enough calcium, your teeth may become soft or loose. Inflammation of the gums can point to a deficiency in magnesium or antioxidants. Bad breath, as well as sores at the edge of the mouth, may indicate a lack of B vitamins.
In many cases, nutritional deficiencies like the ones mentioned above are the result of an imbalanced diet. In other cases, however, they can indicate that the body is not able to properly process the nutrition it receives.
Acid reflux, wherein stomach acid or bile irritates the lining of the food pipe, can create an acidic environment in the mouth. Thus, tooth enamel may suffer premature erosion. Acid reflux can also lead to a dry mouth. A dry mouth lacks the necessary amount of saliva to rinse away harmful bacteria and food particles, which can increase the risk of dental decay.
Protecting Your Digestive and Oral Health
The above are just a few examples of the link between oral health and digestive health. If your mouth is telling you that something is wrong deeper inside your body, consult with your physician to get the help you need to improve the way your body processes food. You should also visit your family dentist in Creve Coeur, who will help you minimize the oral damage caused by digestive health issues. With proper medication, a few dietary changes, and help from your dentist, you may be able to protect both your smile and your gut.
About the Authors
Drs. James and Jenna Feigenbaum are a family-focused team of dentists who serve residents of Creve Coeur and the greater St. Louis area. If you are concerned that digestive health issues are endangering your teeth or gums, they would be happy to help you. Contact our office today at 314-567-1777 to schedule an appointment or learn more about our services.