Acid reflux is a problem for many Americans. It’s on the rise in our society; one in five Americans suffers from it. If you have acid reflux, you should know that it can damage your oral health and cause changes in your mouth that can be painful. It’s best to be aware of what acid reflux can do to your teeth and what you can do to minimize its impact.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is stomach acid that moves the wrong way – back up the esophagus instead of remaining in the stomach. It’s commonly known as heartburn because it causes chest pain that can mimic a heart attack. Besides this discomfort, acid reflux can also cause harm to your oral health because it can eat away at the enamel on your teeth. Usually the saliva in your mouth acts as a defender against acid reflux, but for people with GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux, there is too much stomach acid to neutralize.
Enamel is very strong. It’s actually the strongest substance in your body. It forms the hard outer layer on your teeth. Stomach acid is also very strong, however, and if enamel is exposed repeatedly to stomach acid, it can erode. The thinned enamel layer leaves the nerves underneath more exposed and they register hot, cold, pain, and other discomfort and relay it back to your brain. If you have eroded enamel, you will usually experience it as:
- Tooth sensitivity to heat and cold
- Tooth pain
- Tooth decay
- Tooth loss
- Loose fillings
Can You Replace or Repair Tooth Enamel?
Most damage to tooth enamel is permanent. Your dentist may recommend bonding teeth with thinned enamel or covering a damaged tooth with a crown. It’s much better if tooth erosion is caught early before acid reflux does too much damage. If you know you have acid reflux, please tell your dentist at your next scheduled appointment. He can talk to you about strategies for maintaining good oral health.
How Can You Protect Your Teeth from Acid Reflux?
There are a number of simple actions you can take to reduce acid reflux and limit your teeth’s exposure to it. These include:
- Going to the dentist regularly
- Brushing and flossing your teeth daily
- Talking to your doctor about treating your acid reflux or making life changes that would improve it like losing weight, making dietary changes, and quitting smoking
- Avoiding acidic foods, including soda and drinks that contain citrus
- Chewing gum to increase saliva production
- Selecting a toothpaste and mouthwash that are made for sensitive teeth
- Drinking milk or eating cheese after a meal
- Drinking more water
- Avoiding alcohol especially before bedtime
If you have acid reflux, do not despair. The important thing is to be aware of what it can do to your teeth and make changes that will help bypass that damage. If we at Dental Associates at West Michigan can help you with either creating better habits or addressing existing damage to your teeth, please call us. We are happy to answer questions about acid reflux or any topic relating to your oral health.