The Connection Between Nausea and Oral Health

The Connection Between Nausea and Oral Health
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The Connection Between Nausea and Oral Health Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Vomiting
  2. Acid Reflux
  3. Anti-Nausea Medications
  4. Pregnancy
  5. Tips
  6. Oral Health Issues & Nausea
  7. References

Nausea is the sensation of discomfort and unease in your upper abdomen, back of the mouth and chest, often manifesting as an urge to vomit or spit. While nausea is painless, it can be debilitating and affect the quality of your life when prolonged. Nausea has numerous possible causes since it’s a non-specific symptom.

The most common causes include gastrointestinal disorders and food poisoning. Low blood sugar, motion sickness, migraine, dizziness, fainting, and sleep deprivation can also cause nausea.

Nausea can also be a side effect of morning sickness in early pregnancy and medications such as chemotherapy. Many people don’t realize that nausea can affect your oral health considerably.

Nausea can cause vomiting, which introduces stomach acids into your mouth. Stomach acids are corrosive and can cause various oral health problems. Nausea medications, known as antiemetics, have side effects such as the dry mouth and gum swelling that can impact your oral health.

Vomiting and Oral Health

Vomiting brings acids and bile from your stomach into your mouth just before they are expelled. This reflexive action can cause significant damage to your teeth, gums, and throat.

Because stomach acids are corrosive, they wear away at your enamel, which covers and protects your teeth. If the vomiting is frequent, worn our enamel results in tooth cavities.

Acid also affects dentine tissue, a hard tissue that forms the bulk of your teeth and supports your enamel. Researchers recently devised a new technique to highlight the impact of acid on dentine. That is, exposure to acids from severed enamel erosion can cause irreversible dental erosion. This can lead to hypersensitivity and other oral health problems.

Stomach acids also alter the color and texture of your teeth. Your teeth may start yellowing and become weaker and more brittle, easily susceptible to chipping. The acids in your vomit can also irritate your salivary glands situated at the sides of your cheeks, resulting in swelling. 

Just as stomach acids wear away at your enamel, they can wear away at the skin inside your mouth and throat, resulting in painful sores that can become infected and swell. Frequent vomiting also causes dry mouth and toothaches.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux refers to a situation when your stomach contents (gastric fluid) rise into your esophagus. Reflux causes cause symptoms and complications, including acidic taste in the back of your mouth, heartburn, chest pain, breathing difficulty, bad breath, regurgitation and oral health problems.

Acid reflux into your mouth can lead to tooth erosion because of the breakdown of your enamel, particularly on the inside surface of your teeth. This condition can also cause a dry mouth, bad bread, burning sensation in your mouth, and reddening of your palate.

Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, flooding of the mouth from saliva, coughing and a hoarse voice. Signs of enamel erosion from acid reflux include smooth, glazed or dull enamel surfaces. Some lifestyle choices and habits such as excessive alcohol consumption, consuming acidic and fatty foods, smoking, and medication can worsen acid reflux.

Anti-Nausea Medications

Doctors recommend treatment for nausea if symptoms persist for more than a few days if you cannot keep liquids down, are weak, and vomit frequently. The medications you take to prevent and treat nausea and the associated vomiting are known as antiemetics.

The choice of nausea medication is often based on the condition that leads to nausea. If you experience motion sickness or vertigo, anticholinergics and antihistamines, including scopolamine and meclizine, are effective.

If your nausea is associated with migraines, metoclopramide, chlorpromazine, and prochlorperazine are effective. A combination of doxylamine and pyridoxine is the first line of treatment for pregnancy-related nausea. If frequent vomiting from nausea causes loss of fluids, intravenous rehydration may be administered.

Pregnancy Nausea and Oral Health

Nausea and vomiting, also referred to as morning sickness, are common symptoms of pregnancy affecting 50 to 90 percent of pregnant women. These symptoms typically occur between the fourth and 16th weeks of pregnancy. The definitive cause of pregnancy nausea is unknown, but it is related to hormonal changes.

Increased vomiting from morning sickness causes an increase in acid in the mouth, which is detrimental to your oral health. Gastric acid causes tooth enamel and dentine erosion, leading to tooth decay, yellowing of your teeth, brittleness, mouth sores, dry mouth, swollen salivary glands, gum problems and other oral health issues.

Tips to Maintain Oral Health When Dealing with Nausea

When dealing with frequent vomiting because of nausea, you should avoid brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting. Stomach acid weakens your tooth enamel, and brushing your teeth immediately can cause the enamel to erode faster.

Instead, rinse your mouth with water first, then use mouthwash and brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after 30 minutes or later. You should also avoid brushing your teeth too hard.

Frequent vomiting can also lead to dehydration. If you throw up often, drink plenty of water to stave off dehydration.

If you suffer from acid reflux, limit your alcohol consumption, quit smoking and avoid sugary and fatty diets. If nausea persists for more than two days, or you experience frequent vomiting (more than twice a day), it is advisable to visit your doctor, as this may indicate a serious underlying problem.

Can Oral Health Issues Make You Nauseous?

Oral health problems can cause nausea. Your mouth is home to numerous bacteria, some beneficial and some harmful. Increased harmful bacteria from poor oral health can cause more problems than just cavities.

Certain oral and tooth infections such as tooth abscess are common in individuals with poor dental health. If left untreated, these infections can cause several symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.


Nausea and vomiting in adults - a diagnostic approach. (September 2007). Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

New technique helps researchers understand how acid damages teeth. (October 2021). The University of Birmingham.

American Gastroenterological Association Institute Technical Review on the Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. (September 2008). American Gastroenterological Association.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. (October 2008). The New England Journal of Medicine.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Tooth Erosion. (December 2011). International Journal of Dentistry.

Practical Selection of Antiemetics in the Ambulatory Setting. (March 2015). American Academy of Family Physicians.

Resident obstetricians' awareness of the oral health component in the management of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. (November 2014). BioMed Central Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. (June 2009). British Medical Journal.

Dental abscess  (February 2019). National Health Service.

Tips and Tricks: Morning Sickness and Your Oral Health. (2021). Oral Health Kansas.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.