It’s not just certain food or drinks that can ruin a healthy white smile. While we may understand the importance of the mouth and body connection, certain conditions or diseases have a more direct effect on tooth enamel and oral health.
You may be familiar with the television series ‘Breaking Bad.’ The fictional story about a high school chemistry teacher named Walter White, who along with his accomplice and former student, Jessie, begin making methamphetamine to cover his growing medical bills from cancer treatments. While it may sound like urban legend, meth addiction and its physical side effects is actually true. Drug addiction, specifically methamphetamine, can be tough on tooth enamel. This is the result of two physical side effects dry mouth (leads to rampant decay) and teeth grinding (causes attrition or wear) to the point that they may actually risk losing their teeth. While some researchers indicate that the side effects are a little exaggerated, tooth or enamel loss due to drug addiction is more than real.
Eating Disorders Bulimia
Bulimia or bulimia nervosa is a very serious condition where someone may secretly binge on large amounts of food and then purge to get rid of calories. There are two types of bulimia: purging bulimia and nonpurging bulimia. We are mostly concerned with purging bulimia. The most harmful side effect of purging bulimia is chemical erosion and disappearing enamel. Purging and vomiting (almost always excessive and self-induced) and the accompanying stomach acid literally melts away the calcium rich enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth, the part that we can see. To make matters worse, many time these individuals will amp up their sugar intake in the form of sodas and candy for energy since they’re not receiving the proper nutrition their bodies need leading to severe tooth decay as well.
Anorexia or anorexia nervosa is another eating disorder where individuals may binge and purge; however, people with anorexia opt to severely limit their food intake. They may purge but they may also use laxatives, enemas, diet aids or diuretics as well, because for them it’s about controlling their fear of gaining weight. Because purging is not nearly as excessive as it is with bulimics, the side effect that is most problematic for them is bone loss or osteoporosis. Severe tooth decay and periodontal disease can become an issue when saliva flow reaches a low rate causing dry mouth which is common issue for both anorexia and bulimia.
Gerd/ Acid Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid flows back into your esophagus irritating the esophagus lining. While many people experience it occasionally, also referred to as acid reflux, it can be a regular problem for others. The good news is that once the underlying cause is determined, most people can remedy it with a few lifestyle changes. If the symptoms occur more than twice a week, you should see you doctor, especially if the reflux is accompanied by hoarseness, heartburn and/or chest pain. If it goes on long enough, it too can erode tooth enamel and eventually result in tooth loss. GERD has also been linked to obstructive sleep apnea.
People who suffer from celiac disease have an abnormal immune system reaction to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains like rye, barley and wheat as well as beer and ale. In very basic terms, celiac disease compromises the performance of the small intestine to the point that it can no longer absorb the nutrients the human body needs. It can lead to anemia, loss of bone density and dental damage. According to the NIH website on Celiac disease, the initial diagnosis is most often detected at a dental examination. So, not only are dentists looking for oral cancer, but by looking at a patient’s tooth enamel we can immediately spot things that could indicate a much bigger problem. Some dental issues caused by celiac disease include chalky white, yellow or brown spots on teeth, pitting or banding of teeth, and mottled or translucent-looking tooth enamel. These are all signs that someone may be suffering from celiac disease. Of course, these enamel issues don’t just disappear once someone switches to a gluten-free diet, but with dental technologies like bonding and veneers we can make your smile better than new!
Certain prescription medications, specifically antibiotics can discolor teeth. Perhaps the two of the most widely dispensed antibiotics, tetracycline and doxycycline, while modern miracles of medicine can stain teeth dramatically. Some studies have shown that it can also discolor the teeth of children if their mothers took tetracycline in their 1st and 3rd month of pregnancy. Other reasons for tooth discoloration are mouth rinses, especially those rinses containing chlorohexidine or stannous fluoride (not sodium fluoride!), but these types of discolorations are not serious since the stains are easily polished off. If you’re an allergy sufferer, another prescription that can stain teeth, and is widely available is antihistamines. And not to be ruled out, but some hypertension prescription can also cause tooth discoloration as well.
So while you may feel that having an attractive white smile is something that you just can’t keep up with, we can help. Visit us at Dr. Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD, PC . And when you’re thinking of improving those pearly whites, we can offer many options from veneers to bonding to bleaching/whitening. Not only can we spot many health issues before they lead to trouble, but in the process we can give you the smile that you want and should have. So don’t hesitate to call us at 248-356-8790 and see for yourself what a difference a great dentist can make!
Until Next Time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790