Ten percent of Americans experience daily burning and discomfort associated with heartburn. While heartburn may be a common condition, it certainly isn’t normal and is a frequent symptom of chronic acid reflux, also called gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Chronic acid reflux affects the body in many ways, one that is often overlooked is how teeth are affected by acid. Acid reflux can cause dental erosion, a condition where the tooth enamel dissolves, making them susceptible to damage, discoloration and decay.
What is Acid Reflux and GERD?
Normally, when you swallow, food travels down the esophagus into the stomach where it is digested. A muscle connecting the stomach and esophagus closes to keep food in the stomach and acid out of the esophagus. In someone suffering from acid reflux or GERD, the muscle is weakened, allowing food and stomach acid to travel back into the esophagus. This causes burning in the chest, neck and throat and often leaves an acidic or bitter taste.
How Does Acid Reflux Affect Teeth?
Teeth are covered by a thin layer of tooth enamel, which is highly sensitive to changes in the pH of saliva. Over time, stomach acid can cause tooth enamel to dissolve and erode. Most patients don’t notice damage caused by acid reflux until advanced stages. This is an alarming issue because once tooth enamel is lost, it will not grow back.
Sandra came to Dr. Doray with severe acid erosion damaging nearly all of her teeth. The loss of tooth enamel was significant, dramatically reducing the size of her teeth. Dr. Doray restored Sandra’s smile using porcelain dental crowns.
“I’m so much more confident. No more hand over my mouth when I smile!” – Sandra
Signs that Acid Reflux is Causing Tooth Enamel Loss
Common symptoms of tooth erosion include:
• Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot, cold or sweet food and drinks
• Chipped teeth or sharp tooth edges
• Tooth discoloration or darkening of the teeth
• Thinning or shortened teeth, may be recognized as changes in the bite
• Pain or irritation in the mouth
GERD and Acid Reflux Treatment
Acid reflux and GERD should be diagnosed by your physician. Though these are chronic conditions, they can be managed through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. The following treatments may be helpful:
• Dietary changes to remove trigger foods which often include fried or greasy food, tomato based food, chocolate, carbonated beverages, citrus fruits, coffee and alcohol
• Quit smoking
• Lose weight, acid reflux and GERD are more common in patients who are overweight or obese
• Drink plenty of water
• Elevate the head of your bed at least 6 inches higher than the foot
While antacids can help to relieve the burning sensation caused by acid reflux, be sure not to overuse these medications as they can also cause dental problems.
How to Prevent Tooth Erosion
One of the best ways to prevent tooth erosion is to practice healthy dental habits. This should include regular visits to the dentist along with brushing twice daily using a dentin-sensitive toothpaste.
Tooth Erosion Treatment
If your teeth are already affected by dental erosion, your dentist will offer a range of treatment options to repair damage and restore teeth to their optimal health and appearance. Dr. Doray treats patients who have been affected by tooth erosion using porcelain veneers, dental crowns, cosmetic bonding.
If you are suffering from acid reflux or dental erosion as a result of acid reflux and GERD, contact Philadelphia dentist Dr. Doray for a consultation.