Around 5 million Canadians currently suffer from acid reflux, or its slightly more serious form, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). Acid reflux has a variety of symptoms, including heartburn and indigestion. It also has serious consequences for your teeth.
Read below to learn more about acid reflux, its effects on your teeth, and what you can do to treat its root causes. Knowing more about acid reflux and GERD can help you improve both your quality of life and your smile.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Many people who suffer from acid reflux do so silently, attributing heartburn to a stressful day or greasy dinner. However, diagnosing and treating acid reflux symptoms is crucial, since they can damage your esophagus and teeth.
A small valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) connects your stomach to your esophagus. If it functions correctly, it opens to let food in, then closes immediately afterwards. If it doesn't close, stomach acid can move, or reflux, from your stomach into your esophagus and mouth.
The stomach has a strong lining that protects it from the corrosive acids that help you break down food. However, your esophagus and mouth don't have this same lining, which means acids that don't damage your stomach can damage these parts of your body.
Some of acid reflux's most common symptoms include:
- Acid regurgitation
- Chest pain
- Constant hiccups
- Difficulty swallowing
- Enamel erosion
- Sore throat
- Frequent heartburn
- Frequent sinus infections
Certain factors can increase your risk of acid reflux, included pregnancy, alcohol use, cigarette use, and obesity. Certain foods, such as acidic sodas and greasy foods, can also increase your chance of experiencing acid reflux episodes.
If you've noticed these symptoms persisting for two or more weeks or if heartburn medications and antacids don't help for more than a few hours at a time, it might be time to contact your doctor at Azarko Dental in Edmonton to learn more about acid reflux or visit our emergency dental clinic.
How Does Acid Reflux Affect My Teeth?
Your tooth's enamel protects the sensitive tissues underneath from damage. Even though it's the strongest tissue in your body, your enamel can start to corrode if exposed to acids with a pH level lower than 5.5—which is one reason why your dentist warns you to stay away from acidic sodas. Stomach acid has a pH level of 2.0, which makes it much more acidic than 5.5 and incredibly damaging to enamel.
Some signs of enamel erosion to look out for include:
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
- Yellow teeth
- Uneven, rough, or dented teeth
Multiple things can cause enamel erosion, from too much soda to alcoholism and bruxism (tooth grinding). However, if you notice your enamel weakening in conjunction with any of the symptoms of acid reflux, speak to your doctor at Azarko Dental in Edmonton for best oral hygiene practices.
What Can I Do About Acid Reflux and Enamel Erosion?
Because they are chronic diseases, eradicating acid reflux or GERD entirely can be difficult. However, there are ways to both manage the disease and protect your teeth. If you've been diagnosed with either condition or are worried you could have it, try the following tips:
- Visit your dentist twice a year. Your dentist can help you evaluate your enamel and the probability that you have acid reflux or GERD. Talk to your dentist about enamel erosion if you notice any of the signs. If you visit your dentist twice yearly, he or she should be able to help you catch enamel erosion before it becomes a serious problem.
- Change your lifestyle. Talk to your doctor about cutting down on alcoholic beverages or quitting smoking. If your doctor recommends it, you might also consider losing weight, but do so prudently and only based on your doctor's medical advice.
- Change your diet. Eliminate acidic foods and beverages. Cut down on foods like garlic, chocolate, caffeine, greasy or fried foods, fats, tomatoes, and other citrusy foods. Instead of eating large meals, especially late at night, eat smaller, healthy meals throughout the day.
- Practice good dental hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. If your enamel is wearing away, your teeth are likely very sensitive, so use a sensitive teeth toothpaste with fluoride. You should also use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Ask your dentist to be sure you're using the right toothpaste and toothbrush for your teeth.
- Wait to brush your teeth. Since acid weakens your teeth, brushing them immediately after their exposure can weaken the enamel further. Instead, rinse your mouth out with water after consuming something acidic or after a reflux episode. Wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth.
If you've been diagnosed with GERD or acid reflux, or think you may have some of the symptoms, take these steps to manage the disease and protect your teeth. You'll feel better, and both your stomach and smile will thank you.