Did you know acid reflux and GERD can impact your oral health?
Many lifestyle habits and health concerns affect your dental health, including acid reflux. Also known as “heartburn” and GERD, acid reflux allows damaging acids from the stomach to move up the esophagus, causing characteristic discomfort, belching, and a burning sensation in the upper chest area.
Many suffering from acid reflux will also experience tooth enamel erosion due to acids from the stomach that make their way into the mouth. In addition, many common medications for acid reflux can lead to a condition known as dry mouth, which reduces saliva production and raises the risk of periodontal disease and enamel erosion: saliva is a natural “mouth rinse” that helps to reduce the number of harmful bacteria on surfaces of the teeth and gums.
Tooth enamel erosion is permanent damage that can compromise the strength of your teeth. This is a common cause of tooth sensitivity, especially to cold and sweets. Thinning teeth can look grey and chip more easily, making them look older than they are. Addressing this early and effectively is important for maintaining dental health and a youthful, functional smile.
Signs of Tooth Enamel Erosion
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Chips and cracks in teeth
- Tooth discoloration
At Proud Smiles in Sandy Springs, Dr. Brenda Paulen provides individualized dental care for patients, taking the time to understand their medical history and health concerns. For patients also suffering from and being treated for acid reflux, Dr. Paulen will screen for signs of tooth enamel erosion and gum disease, recommending appropriate oral hygiene or restorative dental treatment to keep your smile healthy.
Other Oral Health Impacts
The acids from acid reflux don’t just impact your teeth. The soft tissues in your mouth are also at risk. Your acidic stomach contents irritate and inflame the gum tissue, putting you at a higher risk for gum disease and gum recession. Acid reflux can cause you to have chronic bad breath, too. The gases in the stomach don’t have pleasant aromas. They often make their way up when you’re having an acid reflux attack.
What Causes Acid Reflux Flare-ups?
While some causes require a medical diagnosis, there are some things that you can do to minimize the frequency of acid reflux attacks. A weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is often the main cause of acid reflux. It’s a ring of muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach, as it’s intended to stop acid backflow from the stomach contents.
Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol can both impact the LES. Smoking weakens it and lessens saliva production, which helps neutralize stomach acid. Alcohol, on the other hand, relaxes the LES and increases acid production in the stomach. If you have both of these habits happening frequently, it’s a perfect storm for reflux flare-ups.
Your diet also plays a big role in acid reflux attacks. Certain foods might make your reflux symptoms worse. Everyone is different, but common foods that cause this include fatty and fried food, spicy food, carbonation, citrus, onions, and garlic. Avoiding large concentrations of these foods can help reduce the frequency of flare-ups.
Lifestyle factors can make reflux more frequent. Stress can increase stomach acid production. You’re also at a higher risk if you overeat or eat heavy meals right before bed. Obesity increases the likelihood, too. More weight puts more pressure on the stomach and abdomen and weakens the LES. It makes it more likely for acid to backflow into the esophagus.
Protect Your Teeth From Erosion
Taking the proper steps to control acid reflux can help protect your teeth in the long run. These key tips can help protect your tooth enamel and improve dental health.
- Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing gums helps promote saliva production. Saliva helps remove acids from the mouth and reduces the risk of dry mouth.
- Incorporate fluoride into your oral hygiene routine. Fluoride can be found in dental hygiene products, including toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption to help minimize the risk of an acid reflux attack.
- Schedule regular visits to the dentist to assess your risk of tooth enamel erosion.
- Visit a physician to determine the underlying cause of your acid reflux or GERD.