Do you ever get heartburn? Most people do, with about ten percent of Americans suffering daily from the discomfort this condition causes. While heartburn is common, it’s not actually natural, and it’s caused by a disorder called acid reflux or gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). And while the most well-known symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, that’s far from the only way this problem affects the body. In fact, chronic acid reflux can be very hard on your teeth. Let’s look at why, and what you can do about it.
First, what is acid reflux? When your digestive system is working the way it’s supposed to, you swallow and your food travels through the esophagus to the stomach. The stomach has acids that digest the food, but there is a muscle that connects the stomach and esophagus, and it closes to keep the food and acid from going back up the esophagus- the wrong way. In people suffering from GERD or acid reflux, this muscle is weak, and it allows the food and stomach acid to travel back up, causing burning in the chest, neck and throat, and a bitter acidic taste.
If you think about the mechanics of acid reflux, you can probably already deduce why this condition would cause problems for your teeth. Your teeth are covered with tooth enamel, which is the strongest substance in the body and protects the teeth from things like bacteria, chemicals, and extreme temperatures. However, over time, this enamel and begin to erode. Stomach acid hastens that erosion, in effect dissolving the enamel and leaving your teeth vulnerable to decay. In fact, in some cases, stomach acid can dramatically decrease the size of your teeth.
How do you know if acid reflux is damaging your teeth? You might notice that your teeth are more sensitive, especially to hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages. Your teeth also might chip, seem thinner or smaller, or have sharp edges. You may experience pain and irritation in your mouth, and your teeth may become discolored or dark.
If you have acid reflux, what can you do to protect your teeth from these problems?
- Start by controlling your acid reflux. Talk to your primary care physician or a gastroenterologist about lifestyle changes you may need to make. Things like removing trigger foods from your diet, quitting smoking, losing weight, and sleeping with your head raised may all be recommended. You may also choose to use antacids to control your symptoms, but do this sparingly, as this type of medication can cause dental problems.
- Be careful with your teeth. Drink through a straw if you’re drinking anything acidic, like soda, coffee, or juice. Drink water with your meals, and drink water between meals, to continually rinse your mouth. Brush with fluoride toothpaste, but avoid brushing for 30 minutes to an hour after eating, so that you don’t brush your enamel when it’s softened. Eat a piece of cheese or drink some milk after your meals, to neutralize the acid.
- See your dentist regularly. Your dentist can alert you to signs of tooth erosion, and can also offer a variety of treatments to help restore your enamel and offset the damage of acid reflux.
If you’re looking for a dentist in New York, why not choose the dentist voted best in the city? At Park 56 Dental Group, we offer pediatric, prosthodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, Invisalign®, emergency, and sedation dentistry, all at the highest level of treatment. We serve the Midtown, Central Park, Upper East Side, Park Avenue, and all surrounding Manhattan and New York areas, with a patient-centered practice that has hours to fit your schedule. Schedule your complimentary consultation today by contacting us online or calling us at (212) 826-2322.
Heartburn is a common complaint, but if you’re experiencing heartburn or acid indigestion on a daily basis, you may be suffering from Acid Reflux, also known as GERD, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. GERD happens when the muscles of the esophagus relax and let stomach acids flow upward, sometimes into the mouth. As the condition progresses, the esophageal lining becomes corroded. It’s very uncomfortable, causing the burning sensation of heartburn. But have you ever considered that acid reflux could be damaging your teeth?
Some of the symptoms of GERD include not only heartburn, but also difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation in the mouth, a sore throat and regurgitation. A person with GERD may experience nausea, vomiting, belching, and chronic coughing. Stomach acid that reaches the mouth can also cause erosion of tooth enamel, tooth sensitivity, chipping and discoloration of teeth, and bad breath.
You probably already know that acid is bad for your tooth enamel. Oral acid, which is usually produced by bacteria, foods, and beverages, can dissolve the minerals in enamel, causing erosion and decay. Stomach acid is extremely strong, with a pH of 2.0 or less, so it can cause even worse damage to the enamel, leaving teeth yellowed, pitted, and sensitive.
What can you do to keep GERD from ruining your teeth? Talk to your doctor about managing your symptoms. You might need medication, and your doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes. These include:
- Avoiding trigger foods like chocolate, tomato-based foods, alcohol, coffee, and spicy or greasy foods.
- Quitting smoking.
- Not eating for several hours before bed.
- Losing weight.
- Not wearing tight clothing.
You can also lessen the effects of acid in your mouth. This can be done by stimulating saliva production by drinking water, taking a saliva booster, or chewing gum. You can also help neutralize acid by rinsing with plain water or a cup of water mixed with ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Antacid tablets can also help balance the pH of your mouth.
Your dentist can also help. Fluoride can strengthen your enamel, and your doctor can apply topical fluoride or prescribe a special rinse that has a higher fluoride concentration than you can get over the counter. Seeing your dentist twice a year allows the condition of your enamel to be evaluated, and your dentist can catch and treat problems while they’re still minor.
If you’re looking for a dentist in New York, choose the practice that was voted best dentist in NYC! At Park 56 Dental Group, we offer pediatric, prosthodontics, endodontics, oral surgery, Invisalign®, emergency, and sedation dentistry, all at the highest level of treatment. We serve the Midtown, Central Park, Upper East Side, Park Avenue, and all surrounding Manhattan and New York areas, with a patient-centered practice that has hours to fit your schedule. Schedule your complimentary consultation today by contacting us online or calling us at (212) 826-2322.
- Cosmetic Dentistry
- Healthier Teeth
- Teeth Whitening
- Dental Health
- Dental Emergencies
- Dental Implants
- Root Canal
- Sedation Dentistry
- Dental Crowns and Bridges
- Dental Anxiety
- Gum Disease
- Bad Breath
- New York Dentist
- Cut out sugar
- General Dentistry
- Oral Health
- Oral Cancer
- Dry Mouth
- Gum Health