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5 medical conditions that can affect your oral health

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, you can protect your teeth by rinsing vigorously with water to reduce acid in your mouth. But make sure not to brush your teeth right away — the bristles can damage enamel that’s by softened by exposure to acid. To prevent nighttime reflux, make sure not to eat two to three hours before bed, and avoid triggers like alcohol, caffeine and other acidic foods and drinks.

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. This can be a startling side effect, but 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 consistent about brushing and flossing.

5. High blood pressure

If you’re among the quarter of Americans with this dangerous condition, you might find yourself with gingival enlargement. Medication used to treat high blood pressure can sometimes cause your gums swell and start to grow over your teeth. Be sure to see your dentist and your physician right away if you think you’re experiencing this side effect.

Last updated February 11, 2022

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