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Dr. Na Xu
Healthy Smiles Family Dental

2601 25th St., Suite 400
Salem, OR 97302

P: (503) 385-1185
F: (503) 339-1981

Keep Your Teeth Safe from Acid Reflux

Posted on 10/13/2015 by Na Xu
A man suffering from frequent acid reflux.Acid reflux is an extremely common condition that many people experience, and while it may seem like an annoyance, it can actually lead to greater problems. In fact, acid reflux can have a variety of negative health consequences, including on your oral health and teeth.

Find out how acid reflux might be affecting your mouth and what you can do to keep your smile safe.

What is Acid Reflux Disease?

Acid reflux disease, otherwise known as gastroesopheageal reflux disease or GERD, occurs when the muscles in your lower esophagus relax so that the stomach acids are allowed to flow up into the esophagus and the mouth. These acids can be extremely irritating, and they can cause inflammation of the esophagus and potential oral health complications. In severe cases, the esophageal muscles may be unable to keep these stomach acids from flowing, and this could cause heartburn and corrosion of your esophageal lining.

Signs of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is sometimes difficult to detect, but there are several signs and symptoms that you can look for:

•  Difficulty swallowing
•  Regurgitation
•  Heartburn
•  Chronic coughing
•  Tooth enamel erosion
•  Bad breath
•  Sore throat
•  Burning sensation in the mouth
•  Vomiting, nausea, and belching

How Does Acid Reflux Affect Your Oral Health

In addition to increasing your esophageal cancer risk and potentially damaging the esophagus, acid reflux can erode your tooth enamel. Research has shown that tooth enamel starts to erode at an acid or pH level of 5.5. Your stomach acid has a pH value of less than 2.0, so it is easy to see that excessive exposure could damage the enamel. This could result in increased chipping, discoloration, decay, and tooth sensitivity.

People with acid reflux also tend to experience dry mouth, which leads to less salivary production in the mouth. Without ample saliva to keep the teeth clean and wash away bacteria and other debris, the amount of dental plaque and bacteria in your mouth will be allowed to amplify, leading to an increase in decay and cavities. Additionally, the medications that you might be taking in order to manage your symptoms of acid reflux could dry out your mouth, contributing to more aggressive dental plaque.

Protecting Your Teeth from Acid Reflux

The best way to prevent acid reflux from damaging your teeth is to maintain good oral hygiene, including brushing at least twice a day. However, there are some other steps that you may also want to try:

•  Use toothpaste that claims to be "dentin-sensitive"
•  Rinse out your mouth with water whenever you have an episode of acid reflux
•  Visit your dentist every six months to have your level of tooth erosion evaluated
•  Don't brush your teeth for at least one hour after you consume foods or drinks that are acidic
•  Consider the use of fluoride treatments to strengthen the teeth
•  If you experience acid reflux at night, wear a mouth guard
•  Avoid taking antacid medications at night, as they tend to have a high level of sugar and could cause additional oral health problem.

Treating Acid Reflux

It is also important to try and take steps to treat the cause of the problem: the acid reflux itself. While your doctor may be able to prescribe some medications to help, the primary step you should take is to make some important lifestyle changes. Work to reduce acid reflux while you sleep by raising the head of your bed 4-6 inches, and quit smoking in order to reduce your risk of acid reflux and heartburn. You should also avoid foods that aggravate your acid reflux, including citrus fruits, chocolate, onions, garlic, coffee, carbonated beverages, and alcohol.

If you're concerned that your acid reflux may be negatively impacting your teeth, please contact our office. We can examine your teeth for erosion and will provide helpful strategies to improve your oral health.

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