Gastroesophageal reflux disease, better known as acid reflux or often abbreviated as GERD, is a condition in which powerful acids from your stomach can be pushed up into your esophagus, which can cause the common condition known as heartburn. Acid reflux usually has an underlying cause, such as your anatomy, different foods you eat, or even smoking. The acids produced by your stomach are powerful and are not meant to travel into your esophagus. So what does this mean for your smile?
Acids Can Erode Enamel
The acids in your stomach that get into your esophagus can end up in your mouth, and they will actually wear your enamel away over time. It basically removes layers of protection from your teeth. In addition to this, people who suffer from acid reflux tend to have dryer mouths. Lack of saliva in your mouth can contribute to a more acidic pH, therefore making an ideal environment for bacteria and plaque to grow. With the acids in your mouth, the pH balance in your mouth can become very acidic, therefore contributing to tooth decay, cavities, and eventually, erosion of your enamel.
Potential Dental Health Problems
What happens when your enamel begins to wear away? One of the first signs that your enamel may be in trouble is tooth sensitivity. The sensitivity may start out as only minor occasional pain, but it can eventually encompass all your teeth and the pain can become extreme. The loss of enamel leads to a variety of problems with your teeth and gums, tooth sensitivity merely being the beginning. You may also experience tooth decay and gum disease as a result of the bacteria in your mouth, dry mouth, and plaque formation. If your gums begin to recede, your roots may be exposed to harmful bacteria. Eventually, you could lose your teeth.
What Can You Do?
If you know you struggle with acid reflux, visiting your doctor for treatment is important. You may need to change your diet, take advantage of medication, or make other lifestyle changes. After this, visit your dentist and talk with him or her about acid reflux and how it can harm your teeth. Your dentist can perform an exam and identify any problems that may be happening in your mouth. The early stages of enamel erosion may not be so severe—such as the translucent appearance of your teeth or the minor tooth sensitivity—but eventually your symptoms will get worse. Your dentist can help you spot problems before they start, and also help you to treat any existing problems.
At home, you can limit consumption of foods and drinks that are acidic in nature, such as juices, soda, or alcohol. If you do eat acidic foods often (such as sweets or citrus fruits), try to rinse your mouth with water afterward. If you experience dry mouth, drink more water. Don’t forget to get treatment for your acid reflux—without treating the cause of your tooth damage, it will continue to happen!
Protect your teeth from the damage of acid reflux. Visit your dentist to ensure your teeth are healthy and to learn more about what you can do to protect your mouth. Treating your acid reflux disease is also an important step in preventing tooth decay and other problems that arise from stomach acids in the mouth!