Two Ways Bariatric Surgery Can Damage Your Oral Health

Posted on: 24 January 2018


Bariatric surgery is designed to help people lose weight by reducing the size of the stomach, so at first glance it doesn't seem like the procedure would have any effect on a person's oral health. Appearances can be deceiving, however, because bariatric surgery can cause significant changes to occur in the body that result in tooth and gum damage. Here are two ways this procedure can have a negative impact, and what you can do about them.

Deterioration Due to Malnutrition

Although bariatric surgery is very effective at helping people lose weight –because people are forced to eat less—one of the unfortunate side effects of the procedure is patients not getting enough nutrients to support their health. This can happen in a couple of ways.

First, a smaller stomach forces people to adhere to a very strict low-cal diet consisting of a maximum of 1,000 calories per day. When you're not getting enough food, you're likely not getting the recommended daily amount of vitamins needed to maintain the body. Second, some types of bariatric surgery remove the part of the intestines that absorbs nutrients, so even if a person is eating the right types of foods in the right amounts, the body is actually receiving very little of it.

Teeth require adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D to remain strong and vitamin C to help fight off bacteria that causes oral infections. Without these nutrients, teeth become weak and more susceptible to periodontal disease. It's not unusual for people to develop an increasing number of cavities after bariatric surgery and even lose a few teeth.

One thing you can do to ensure you get enough nutrients is to work with a dietician to develop a meal plan that maximizes your vitamin intake. Don't waste your calories on filler foods such as chips and soda. Stick to whole foods with the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

If your bariatric surgery involved removing part of your intestines, take your doctor about getting vitamin shots. With these shots, the vitamins are injected directly into the blood stream, thus not requiring the absorption through the intestines, increasing the likelihood your body will use them.

Tooth Damage Because of Acid Erosion

Another way bariatric surgery may damage your teeth is through acid erosion. The surgery can cause patients to become nauseous and vomit more often—particularly when they overeat. Additionally, the surgery may cause or worsen acid reflux.

Both conditions result in stomach acid entering the mouth and eroding the tooth enamel. Over time, the enamel gets worn away to the point that it no longer protects the tooth from the damage caused by bacteria, result in cavities and periodontal disease.

Avoid unnecessary vomiting by adhering strictly to the amount of food recommend by your doctor. If acid reflux is the issue, talk to your healthcare provider about the medications available that may help keep the acid in check.

For more tips on protecting your teeth after bariatric surgery, contact a dentist.