How does Acid Reflux affect your teeth?

Your own body acids damage your teeth

When you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also called acid reflux, you may be surprised to learn that it is most likely damaging your teeth. While you already know that it is both a problem and a cause of heartburn pain, now you will also have something else to watch out for. About 20 percent of the people in the United States have acid reflux disease.

The Cause

Acid reflux, or GERD, is caused because a valve at the top of the stomach that normally prevents acid and the contents of the stomach from rising into the esophagus is not working properly. It lets acid and partially digested food into the esophagus, the throat, and into your mouth.

The acid in your stomach is going to cause deterioration whenever it goes anywhere it is not supposed to go. As it travels from the stomach upwards, it is eroding the walls of your esophagus, your mouth, gums, and teeth.

GERD Not Always Noticeable

Some people have GERD and do not even know it. A dentist is able to tell, though, because there will be acid reflux symptoms on the backside of your teeth. The enamel will have significant erosion. This is a problem because a loss of enamel increases your risk of getting cavities. Your teeth may also become sensitive to hot and cold. Since you cannot regrow enamel, they will continue to deteriorate.

Heartburn does not always occur with GERD. This means it is possible to have acid reflux and not be aware of it. Your dentist will be able to tell, and you, by looking for the following symptoms:

  • Tooth erosion – teeth will have a rounded appearance

  • Tooth enamel loss – surfaces of teeth may appear pitted (teeth start eroding at a pH of 5.5 - acid from your stomach has a pH of 2.0)

  • If present, heartburn worsens after eating

  • Bending over or lying down can make symptoms worse.

Other Problems

Acid reflux is also going to cause dry mouth. This is a problem because your saliva is needed to help wash away the bacteria that can cause cavities and gum disease. When you eat a healthy diet, it also replenishes the minerals that are leached out of your teeth by the acid, but it will not regrow the enamel. To remedy this problem, you can chew gum with xylitol in it.

Another way a dentist can know that you have GERD is because your gums will be irritated from the acid. When they become irritated bacteria in your mouth will further irritate them and cause gum disease. If you notice that your gums bleed when you brush them, then you probably have gum disease.

Gum disease starts out quite mild with no serious problems. If it is allowed to progress, then the inflammation caused by the bad bacteria will lead to periodontitis. Once that occurs, it will slowly destroy your gums, the structures that support your teeth, and your jawbone. Your teeth will become loose and they may even fall out.

In the early stages of gum disease, it can often be stopped by brushing your teeth two times a day and flossing. You will find that the acid from GERD will make it harder to control.

Results of Acid Reflux

If acid reflux is allowed to continue without trying to prevent it, it will certainly cause some dental problems you do not want. In addition to cavities, you could also find that your:

  • Teeth develop a yellow discoloration

  • Fillings do not fit as well

  • Develop more cavities

  • May have an abscessed tooth

  • Loss of teeth

Controlling Acid Reflux

You can often reduce the harmful effects of acid reflux by making some lifestyle changes. These changes include:

  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco

  • If obese, lose weight

  • Keep from eating large meals and do not eat three hours before going to bed

  • Avoid potential triggers: chocolate, fatty foods, fried foods, caffeinated drinks, spicy foods, and acidic foods

  • See a doctor because GERD can also be caused by various medical problems, including pregnancy, diabetes, hiatal hernia, and fast weight gain

  • Get a prescription (or over-the-counter) medication for controlling it.

GERD can become a serious problem in many ways if it is not controlled. In addition to causing teeth problems, it can result in a chronic cough, earaches, laryngitis, and can lead to pre-cancerous conditions.

The dentist can help to ensure that your gums and teeth are maintained in a rather good shape by making regular dental visits. Drinking sodas and acidic foods and drinks will further destroy the enamel on your teeth.

If you have acid reflux and want to ensure that your teeth are not severely damaged, you can visit Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS. He is a Board-certified Periodontist who can help you maintain good oral health. You can get a free consultation by clicking on the number on this screen, or you can book an online appointment.