Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) happens when acid from the
stomach gets into the esophagus, which can cause symptoms of heartburn.
However, up to 25% of patients with acid reflux will have no symptoms. Dentists are often the
first professionals to come into contact with acid reflux, as enamel erosion on the back molars
may be a sign of the presence of stomach acid in the oral cavity.
How does acid reflux affect the oral cavity? Here’s how GERD can contribute to tooth decay.
Enamel Loss Increases Risk of Cavities
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it’s no match for stomach acid,
which is so strong it can actually dissolve razor blades!
When tooth enamel is lost due to erosion from harsh acids or bacteria, it can’t be replaced. Loss
of tooth enamel increases your risk of tooth decay. The harsh stomach acids that leak into the
esophagus in people with GERD can eventually make their way up the esophagus and into the
mouth. These acids are extremely corrosive to tooth enamel.
This type of damage usually happens on the surface of the back molars on the lower jaw, which are the closest teeth to the back of your throat and therefore the most likely to experience the harmful effects of stomach acid.
Dry Mouth May Exacerbate Tooth Decay
Patients with acid reflux often experience dry mouth on account of the traces of acid that can
be present in the oral cavity.
Dry mouth in itself can cause an upset in the balance of oral bacteria and contribute to tooth
decay; dry mouth combined with GERD can quickly work to damage tooth enamel and wear
away the surface of the back molars among other teeth.
Other symptoms of acid reflux include chronic bad breath or a persistent bad taste in your
mouth. Both of these can be symptoms of gum disease as well, so discovering the cause of
these symptoms with your dentist is essential.
How to Stop Tooth Decay from Acid Reflux
People with acid reflux may need to try harder to avoid foods that can aggravate tooth decay,
such as sugar. Combining sugar with harmful stomach acids in the mouth can be detrimental to
In addition, people with acid reflux may also experience a flare of symptoms with foods such as
tomatoes and citrus fruits; both of these are acidic and can worsen the effect of GERD on your
Make your dentist aware of your acid reflux and ask him or her how often you should come in.
You may need to come in more often in order to keep your teeth healthy and prevent damage
from acid reflux.
Managing your acid reflux can help you protect both your smile and your body from this
Acid reflux absolutely has the potential to contribute to tooth decay. Visiting your dentist can
help you catch acid reflux early in the event that you are asymptomatic and prevent harm to
your teeth. Make an appointment with your dentist today if you suspect you’re suffering from