As if your teeth don’t have enough problems, you may have to deal with something that may not even seem remotely related — acid reflux. Yes, acid reflux is mainly a digestive problem. However, it can greatly impact your dental health. This condition happens when your stomach produces too much acid, and it comes back up through your esophagus. The acid in your mouth can wreak havoc on your gums and the enamel of your teeth.
The effects this digestive issue has on your dental health ranges from mild to severe. Dentists call it acid or tooth erosion. We have listed a few tips and tricks so you know how to prevent acid reflux and keep the effects of acid erosion on teeth at bay.
Acid vs. Teeth: What Happens During Acid Reflux
Your teeth are protected by an external layer called enamel, which is made up mostly of calcium, the same minerals found in seashells, hence the term “pearly whites”. Acid, while it plays an essential role in breaking down food, is equally destructive when produced in excess.
Normally, water and saliva can balance out the acid. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case when you have acid reflux.
The big question is: can acid reflux rot your teeth? Yes, it absolutely can. The more acid attacks the enamel in your teeth, the more exposed your teeth are to bacteria and plaque buildup. These 2 things, as we have known from countless toothpaste commercials, can cause chronic pain, decay, or severe cases of bad breath and/or tooth discolouration.
When left unchecked, tooth erosion can lead to abscesses or even tooth loss.
GERD vs. Acid Reflux: What’s the Difference?
If you have been reading about acid reflux, you must have come across the term “gastroesophageal reflux disease”, or GERD. In layman’s terms, GERD is the chronic (i.e. long-term and recurring) form of acid reflux.
Having GERD runs a higher risk of tooth erosion, simply because your body can’t help but keep on producing acid even if it’s not meant to.
Whether you have the occasional acid reflux or have been suffering from GERD for an extended period of time, you can exhibit a wide range of oral symptoms, including:
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Chalky, yellowing enamel, which may erode in due time
- Excess saliva production
- Difficult, often painful, swallowing
- Discomfort or irritation in the mouth
- Chronic tooth sensitivity
- Chronic tooth decay
Your dentist can tell a lot about you from your first checkup. The earlier these signs and symptoms are spotted, the earlier you can establish the connection between your acid reflux and the dwindling quality of your dental and oral health.
Your Teeth Versus Acid Reflux: Preventive Tips and Effective Tricks
Most GERD patients are advised to take acid reflux medication, which dries out the mouth when constantly taken. Ironically, this lessens the production of saliva, which in turn creates more opportunity for any upcoming acid reflux attack to terrorize your teeth.
This is why aside from the usual solution of over-the-counter antacids and other known treatments for GERD, a change in diet and lifestyle is suggested, if not highly encouraged, by many dental health professionals.
The fight to protecting your teeth from the dangers of acid reflux begins with you. Know how to neutralize acid reflux and keep it from wreaking havoc in your mouth.
- Rethink What You Eat
Cut back on sugary, carbonated, processed, spicy, and acidic foods. That includes soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, citruses, candies, canned goods, and a whole other bunch of goodies. If you’re keen on salads, double-check how much dressing you’re tossing along with the good veggies and fruits. It’s not what you eat. It’s how you eat them.
If you have been diagnosed with GERD, it’s best to eliminate the soda pop, wine, and other acidic stuff completely from your diet.
- Schedule Your Meals
Eat proper and scheduled meals instead of constantly snacking intermittently all day through. This helps your stomach control the amount of acid it needs to release to digest all the food you’re eating. Three main meals and 2 snack times should keep you from feeling hungry. Snacks 3 to 4 hours before bed are definitely a no-no for those who run the risk of nighttime acid reflux.
- Use a Straw
This does not lessen how much acid there is in your drink, but using a straw especially when drinking acidic beverages lessens the contact between the substance and your teeth. If you’re confident your acid reflux won’t act up with that glass of Coke you’re having, at least don’t let the acid touch your teeth.
- Improve the Quality of Your Sleep
Your body doesn’t stop functioning when you sleep. The danger of having an acid reflux attack while you’re asleep is that acid might move up your esophagus easily when lying on your back with your head on a standard pillow. To lessen such danger, you can choose to invest on a wedge pillow, which elevates your upper body, thereby lessening the chances of acid creeping up into your throat during your unconscious time.
- Drink Water
Because water is the least harmful, if not entirely friendly, substance to put inside your body, drink lots of it to help your body wash and balance out the acids that it may abnormally generate during the course of your day. If your mouth feels weird after eating, rinse it with water first before proceeding to brush your teeth.
- Don’t Brush Your Teeth Immediately After Eating!
Because acid softens your enamel, it makes your teeth more vulnerable to damage while exposed to the up and down friction when brushing. When you brush after you eat, you’re not doing your teeth any favours, at all — especially if you have GERD. Wait for 30 minutes before brushing.
- Make Your Own Mouthwash
If there’s a sour taste in your mouth, don’t brush it because it’s clearly acidic and brushing will just cause more enamel loss. Instead, you can use a DIY mouthwash made of water and baking soda. Alternatively, use fluoride toothpaste dipped in baking soda to rub on your teeth, and rinse the solution with water.
- Stock on Sugarfree Gum
While you are generally discouraged from sweets in order to maintain healthy teeth, those with acid reflux can get away with sugar-free chewing gum, like Xylitol. Xylitol facilitates the production of saliva, which your body badly needs in order to fight any possibilities of acid regurgitation.
- Pay Your Physician (and Your Dentist) a Visit
While prevention is always better than cure, there’s also nothing like getting the professional help you need and deserve. Recurring events of acid reflux may mean you have GERD, so it would be best to go to your physician to get diagnosed. The sooner you know something’s wrong, the sooner you know how to handle it.
If you’re worried about tooth erosion because you have GERD, the occasional acid reflux, or other issues like teeth grinding, you can always set an appointment at Lakeside Family Dental. Contact us at (905) 637-0801, or email us at [email protected] to book your dental appointment today.