Acid reflux is common, with about 20% of Americans suffering from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). When stomach acid comes up into your esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in your chest known as heartburn. Exposure to stomach acid can lead to adverse symptoms, including tooth erosion. As such, it’s important to do what you can to protect your teeth from acid reflux.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
Doctors aren’t always sure what causes acid reflux. There are some common causes. You can experience it later in life even if you never have before. It can occur in families due to similar diets and eating habits.
Some common causes of acid reflux include:
- Stomach abnormalities.
- Being overweight.
Certain foods are known to trigger acid reflux symptoms. These include:
- Citrus fruits
- Fried foods
- Fatty foods
- Carbonated beverages
- Spicy foods
Eating too close to bedtime or lying down right after eating can lead to acid reflux. So can wearing tight-fitting clothes, taking aspirin or ibuprofen, and overeating.
What Does Acid Reflux Do To Your Teeth?
When people experience heartburn, they’re most focused on that burning sensation in their chest. They may also have a sour or bitter taste in their mouth. They may regurgitate what they ate, exposing their throat and teeth to stomach acid.
While people who suffer from acid reflux are often most concerned with the damage the exposure to stomach acid does to the esophagus, it can also damage your teeth.
Stomach acid is extremely erosive. It can eat away at your tooth enamel and cause long-term damage. Unfortunately, enamel loss is permanent. It weakens your teeth and increases your risk for tooth decay. It also makes your teeth more sensitive to temperatures and sweets. Over time, tooth erosion from acid reflux can lead to thin, sharp, and pitted teeth.
Can Your Dentist Tell If You Have Acid Reflux?
Your dentist may be able to tell if you have acid reflux if you have enamel erosion on your molars or the backside of your teeth.
If your acid reflux is a new development or has yet to cause damage like this, tell your dentist. They will be able to provide you with personalized advice on what you can do in order to protect your teeth.
It is important to see your dentist every 6 months in general. If you suffer from heartburn, it is especially important to ensure that you are seeing your dentist as recommended. Once the enamel is gone, you cannot get it back. While you can get restorations like veneers or crowns, it’s best to protect your teeth however you can.
Ways To Protect Your Teeth With Acid Reflux
There’s no need to panic just yet – just because you have acid reflux does not mean you cannot protect your teeth from erosion. Some of the best things that you can do to protect your teeth are as follows.
#1. Talk To Your Doctor
You especially want to do this if heartburn is a persistent, ongoing problem for you. Your doctor will be able to help you figure out specific parts of your lifestyle that could be worsening your symptoms. They may prescribe medication or recommend medical treatment options. In rare cases, you may be a candidate for surgery. Your doctor will be able to help you determine the best course of treatment for you.
#2. See Your Dentist As Recommended
Typically, this is every 6 months. However, your dentist may recommend more frequent appointments depending on your specific circumstances. While most people don’t like going to the dentist, it’s essential in order to address problems before they get the chance to escalate into severe conditions. Filling a cavity is better than losing a tooth and having to get an implant, after all.
#3. Adjust Your Lifestyle As Needed
There are general guidelines that people with heartburn and reflux diseases are given to improve and control their symptoms. Some of these include:
- Losing weight if you are overweight.
- Avoiding tight-fitting clothes
- Avoiding foods and drinks that trigger reflux
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding eating several hours before bed
- Staying upright for several hours after eating
#4. Don’t Brush Your Teeth Immediately After Experiencing Reflux
Instead, wait an hour or so. This is because acid weakens your enamel. If you were to brush your teeth right away, you could end up causing further damage to your teeth. Instead, you can rinse your mouth with water. You may dissolve baking soda in this water to neutralize the acid.
#5. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
This includes brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time, flossing once a day, and seeing your dentist as recommended. Your dentist may have specific recommendations to help you protect your teeth, such as using a fluoride mouthwash.
Your dentist may also make recommendations like wearing a mouthguard at night or fluoride treatments. In order to determine the best course of action for you, it’s best to consult with your dentist and your doctor.
Let Us Help You Protect Your Teeth
We here at Eric Felt Dental are here to help you keep your teeth strong and healthy as can be. If you need advice on how to care for and protect your teeth, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment.