Acid reflux is a very uncomfortable situation for anyone, but did you know it can silently damage your teeth in the process? First off, acid reflux is when acid produced by the stomach moves up into the esophagus, causing chest pain known as heartburn. That same acid can wear away the enamel on your teeth. Enamel, the strongest substance in your body, is a hard outer layer that protects the teeth from extreme temperatures, acids, and chemicals.
However, while strong, this shell can erode over time, leaving your teeth vulnerable to cavities and decay. Your first clue may be that hot or cold foods, drinks, and sweets now bother your teeth when they never did before. That’s because those substances are getting in via holes in your enamel and aggravating the nerves within.
There are many things that can eat away at your enamel, such as too many sweets, sour foods, dry mouth, bulimia, binge drinking, drugs with acids in them, brushing too hard, and teeth grinding (called bruxism). Perhaps the most damaging of those to your teeth is acid reflux disease, known as GERD. Check out these tips to prevent acid reflux from damaging your teeth:
1. Good dental care
See your dentist every six months for a full cleaning and check
of your enamel. Brush and floss as directed every day, and alert your dentist to
any issues that may concern you.
2. Keep your acid reflux under control
This starts with a visit to your gastroenterology specialist. Your doctor can advise you on ways to control your acid reflux so the acid can’t get to your teeth in the first place. You may be asked to lose weight, avoid acidic foods, eat smaller meals, sleep propped up, refrain from lying down right after eating, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake.
3. Review your diet
What you’re eating could be causing you undue stress. Cut back on the sodas, citrus fruits and drinks, and even pasta sauce. Or, you can switch to low-acid orange juice, for example.
4. Drink through a straw
If you must drink soda or juice, use a straw so the liquid bypasses your teeth.
5. Chew only sugar-free gum to reduce the amount of acid in your mouth.
Gum also has the added benefit of helping you produce more saliva, which
strengthens teeth with minerals.
6. Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after an acidic meal.
Wait an hour or so, then brush with a soft tooth brush. That’s because acidic foods tend to soften the enamel, and you don’t want to start brushing hard against soft enamel.
7. Choose a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash for sensitive teeth.
Ask your dentist for the best solution for you.
- Eat a piece of cheese or glass of milk after your meal, to cancel out the effects of
- Swish your mouth with water after eating or drinking.
- Drink plenty of water all day long, particularly if you suffer from dry mouth.
Repairing the Damage
You may wonder if, once damaged, enamel can be restored. The answer is maybe. It depends on the extent of the damage, but again, see your dentist for a custom tailored solution. You may be a good candidate for tooth bonding, which can offer protection for a damaged tooth by covering a worn, chipped or discolored tooth.
If your dentist discovers you’ve lost too much of that outer shell, he or she may cover the tooth with a crown to prevent further damage.
The bottom line is to stay on top of your dental health, especially if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. That’s because you are at a higher risk of tooth wear and erosion, but the worst part is you may not even know it. Left unchecked, GERD can result in thin, sharp and pitted teeth.
Because patients often are not aware of the damage that reflux-induced erosion has caused until it’s too late, it’s important to catch this in its earliest stages. For a little background…a low pH level indicates more acid, while a high pH level indicates less acid. Dental enamel begins to erode at a pH of 5.5. Consider that stomach acid has a low pH of 2.0, which means it’s very harmful to teeth.
Studies show that about half of all patients with GERD have significant tooth wear and erosion over healthy people.
Call 681-342-3690 for an appointment with a gastroenterology specialist today.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.