Your mouth reveals more than you think. In fact, based on the condition of your teeth and gums, your dentist can learn about some of your everyday habits as well as detect certain health conditions. Acid reflux is a condition that may originate in your gut, but it often produces consequences within your mouth. Tooth enamel is simply not designed to handle the strong acids of our stomachs on a regular basis. Just like the acids of soft drinks can slowly erode your teeth, so can the stomach acids of this common gastrointestinal condition. Unfortunately, the damage is often noticeable to your dentist as well as irreversible.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a disruptive disease of the digestive system that impacts millions of people on a daily basis. It occurs when stomach acid or bile flows up the esophagus and irritates the lining of the food pipe. Those who suffer from acid reflux know the uncomfortable burning it can produce in the chest, often making it difficult to swallow or worse when lying down. This condition is also known for wreaking havoc on your smile if not managed properly.
Acid and Your Teeth
To grasp just how destructive acid reflux is to your teeth, it is important to understand how pH levels affect dental enamel (outer tooth layer). The lower the pH number, the more acidic and damaging it can be for your teeth. Surprisingly, enamel can begin to dissolve (or erode) at a pH of 5.5 and our stomach acids tend to register as low as 2.0! Enamel erosion is associated with sensitivity, yellowing and cavities within your smile. It is never ideal to lose this protective barrier on your teeth.
Protecting Your Dental Health Despite Acid Reflux
Working with your primary care physician to manage your acid reflux condition is very important. There are medications and lifestyle changes that can drastically reduce your symptoms. To ensure your teeth avoid the damages of acid reflux, the Academy of General Dentistry suggests the following tips:
- Avoid eating acidic foods and foods that can cause acid reflux (tomatoes, citric fruits, spicy & fried foods, fatty meats, dairy, chocolate and caffeine are all culprits)
- Avoid brushing for 60 minutes after reflux episodes
- Rinse mouth with water after reflux episodes
- Take a sugar-free antacid and let it dissolve in the mouth
- Chew xylitol gum or other sugarless gums, lozenges or candies
Concerned that your acid reflux is compromising your dental health, call Dr. Wayne Suway in Marietta. We work hard to detect and treat minor dental problems before they become permanent and costly.