With so many people experiencing acid reflux today, it’s no wonder diets are changing and more medications are showing up on shelves. While much attention focuses on the effects to the esophagus itself, acid reflux can also cause increasing damage to your dental health in the form of tooth erosion.
The loss of tooth enamel, or erosion resulting from acid reflux, can lead to various problems, including cavities. Knowing what can happen and how to protect against it will take you a long way in preserving and protecting your teeth as you deal with this challenging health condition.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Chronic acid reflux, also referred to as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is an all-too-common condition today. It affects all ages and can vary in its intensity.
During the digestion process, food makes its way down the esophagus and into the stomach. Connecting the esophagus to your stomach is a small, powerful muscle. The job of this muscle is to serve as the doorman, closing when the food enters the stomach and keeping it closed to hold the food and stomach acid inside.
Acid reflux is the condition in which that important muscle weakens, allowing food and digestive acid to seep or roll back up into the esophagus. This action may be caused by the muscle not shutting tightly to close off access or occasionally opening for no apparent reason.
Symptoms of acid reflux include:
- burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), neck, and throat
- voice hoarseness
- a need to clear your throat often
- difficulty swallowing
- an acidic or sour taste left in your mouth, or in the back of your mouth (acid indigestion)
- feeling a lump in your throat (even though there is no lump)
- erosion of tooth enamel
Taking steps to relieve the acid reflux will eliminate many of these symptoms. However, any tooth erosion already occurring will be permanent and leave you open to dental issues now or down the road.
How Does Acid Reflux Affect Teeth?
While living with acid reflux is challenging, it’s essential you understand that it’s hurting more than just your stomach and throat.
Your teeth are encased in this strong outer layer called the enamel, which is the hardest substance in the human body. While it protects your teeth on a day-to-day basis, that doesn’t mean it is indestructible, however.
Tooth enamel is already sensitive to the composition of your saliva. When stomach acid climbs up the esophagus to the mouth, this can lead to full-scale enamel erosion over time.
While you may not be aware of the effect acid reflux is having on your teeth, eventually, other signs will appear, such as cavities. Other symptoms showing that acid reflux is at work eroding tooth enamel include:
- Tooth discoloration or darkening
- Tooth sensitivity to temperature (hot or cold)
- Sensitively to sugary drinks and foods
- Sharpened tooth edges
- Chipped or broken teeth
- Thinning teeth
- Irritation or pain inside the mouth
While the hard enamel layer silently erodes, exposing the more vulnerable layers below, your teeth are open to decay and other damage.
It is often your dentist who discovers you have acid reflux by identifying tooth enamel erosion occurring in your mouth. The first signs appear on molars or on the backside of teeth.
Ways to Prevent and Treat Tooth Erosion
Getting acid reflux under control through dietary changes, weight loss, or hydration is a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, the essential best thing you can do for your teeth is to practice good dental hygiene. You can do this by:
- Brushing at least twice a day
- Flossing at least once a day
- Chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow
- Rinsing vigorously with water several times a day to dilute the acid reaching your mouth and teeth
- Try rinsing your teeth with a combination of water and baking soda to neutralize acid a few times a week
- Scheduling regular dental exams and cleanings
Once tooth erosion is identified, however, you may need to take additional measures to repair and restore them to a healthy state. Treatments often begin with inserting fillings in the place of cavities.
More advanced treatments may follow, including dental crowns, veneers, and cosmetic bonding. Your dentist may also suggest applying a sealant to protect the enamel you still have.
Keep Your Teeth in Top Shape by Calling Stiles Dental Care Today!
Don’t let your acid reflux get the better of you or your teeth. Help is available. Call our office today to schedule a dental exam with Dr. Stiles and his team. You’ll receive an assessment of the current state of your tooth enamel and learn about the various measures available to protect your dental health overall.
All patients of Stiles Dental Care receive top-notch care with compassion in a friendly, clean, and professional setting. Call today to begin your dental health journey.