Tooth Be Told: Dental Considerations After Bariatric Surgery

Amanda Peterson, RDN, LD | Molly Jones, RDN, LD
July 02, 2019
Image of a woman smiling

Changes Affecting Oral Health After Bariatric Surgery
Patients who undergo bariatric surgery experience many changes as a result – both intentional and unintentional. These factors can have a negative impact on oral health:

  • Eating more frequently
  • Acid reflux/vomiting
  • Dietary restrictions
  • Change in foods consumed
  • Potential nutritional deficiencies

Changes in The Oral Environment
The changes that bariatric surgery patients experience can lead to an altered oral environment. Erosion is the irreversible loss of dental tissues due to acid. If the enamel of the tooth is lost, the patient may experience hypersensitivity. Hypersensitivity causes sharp, short-lasting pain when the tooth is exposed to hot or cold temperatures, touched, or exposed to sweet or sour food. Erosion also puts patients at a higher risk for caries (also known as cavities) since the teeth are weaker. An acidic oral environment can also lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gingivitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the gums. Left untreated, gingivitis can result in periodontal disease, which is characterized by the loss of bone and tissue surrounding the tooth.

Oral Hygiene Tips

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day for two minutes. Mechanical toothbrushes can help make sure you aren’t applying too much pressure.
  • Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. A sensitivity toothpaste with the ingredient potassium nitrate can help relieve hypersensitivity.
  • Floss daily
  • After experiencing reflux or vomiting, rinse with water, baking soda (1 teaspoon in 8 ounces of water), and fluoride mouthwash. Do not brush teeth directly after reflux/vomiting.
  • Rinse with water immediately after eating.
  • Consider products containing xylitol such as chewing gum.
  • Hydrate with water whenever possible.

Working with Your Dentist
Your dentist can help you maintain a healthy mouth and address any dental concerns you may have. Here are a few ways your dentist may be able to help:

  • Fabrication of a custom mouth guard to use during reflux/vomiting or at night to protect teeth
  • Application an in-office fluoride varnish to protect teeth
  • Early detection of oral issues and appropriate intervention
  • Prescribe toothpastes and/or mouthwashes that can provide extra protection
  • Placement of sealants to protect posterior teeth from caries

If possible, speak with your dentist about bariatric surgery beforehand so that appropriate preventive measures can be taken.
For more information visit MUSC’s dental clinic.  

MUSC Dental Clinic
29 Bee Street
Charleston, SC, 29425
Appointments: 843-876- SMIL(E)

Support group presented by:
Allison Moore and Emily Moore
Emily and Allison Moore are third year dental students at the Medical University of South Carolina. They are from Lancaster, South Carolina and each received their undergraduate degree in Biology from the College of Charleston in 2016.

Dr. Monica Cayouette, DMD, MS, FACP
Dr. Cayouette is the Chair and Associate Professor of the Dept of Oral Rehabilitation at Medical University of South Carolina

Dr. Michelle Ziegler, DDS, FSCDA
Dr. Ziegler is the Program Director of Advanced Education in General Dentistry and the Division Director of Special Care Dentistry at Medical University of South Carolina.

Support gourp facilitated by Amanda Peterson, RDN, LD | Molly Jones, RDN, LD
Amanda and Molly are the MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program Registered Dietitians. With 15+ years experience combined, they facilitate behavior change through nutrition counseling for weight loss and maintenance with children through adults.


About the Author

Amanda Peterson, RDN, LD | Molly Jones, RDN, LD

Keywords: Wellness, Dental, Bariatric