Acid reflux disease creates problems for other parts of our bodies that you may not realize. One of the most important is our teeth which is what I’m going to discuss today.
Your digestive health affects your teeth through a process called erosion. Frequent stomach upset i.e. acid reflux can cause a gradual wearing away of the enamel which protects your teeth. The dentists call this erosion and it can affect the appearance of your teeth and cause cavities which are the result of harmful bacteria in your mouth.
How does this happen?
When you eat, natural acids are produced in your stomach which help digest your food. Occasionally, these acids travel up your esophagus and into your throat and mouth. Under normal circumstances, the saliva in our mouths helps to re balance these acids in our mouth and no harm is done to our teeth.
A bit of science: Hydrogen (pH) is the measure of acidity in any substance on a scale of 0 – 14. The lower the number the more acidic it is. So foods with a high pH are not very acidic and therefore should not cause any acid reflux. Your tooth enamel begins to erode at a pH of 5.5. Stomach acid has a pH of 2.0 meaning it is extremely acidic and therefore will cause erosion when it reaches your mouth.
However, for those suffering from Acid Reflux disease these acids, called gastric acids, are traveling up to the mouth throughout the day and it is especially harmful at night when we are sleeping. This is because while asleep we swallow less often and thus produce less saliva
Sometimes the cure is part of the problem as some medicines which are taken for Acid Reflux causes a condition called “dry mouth” which means we are producing even less saliva as we sleep. Our saliva helps to wash out food particles which slows the growth of the harmful bacteria that cause erosion and tooth decay.
Acid reflux teeth problems
Acid reflux causes the enamel on both the inside surfaces and the chewing surfaces to wear away. Your dentist will probably notice this during a routine exam and will give you the bad news that this erosion of the enamel is permanent.
As the surface starts to wear away you may notice a variety of symptoms:
- Pain and sensitivity from hot, cold or sweet drinks
- a yellowish discoloring of the teeth
- teeth start to look rounded or looked like they have been sanded with sandpaper
- pitting or “cupping” of the teeth
- problems with existing fillings
- greater risk of cavities
- in extreme cases, it can lead to abscess
- most extreme it can lead to tooth loss
Protecting tooth enamel
What strategies can you use to protect your teeth and tooth enamel and get relief from symptoms? Here are a few ways:
- Using sugar free gum. Chewing sugar free gum encourages more saliva production. As stated above, saliva helps to neutralize the stomach acids which are in your mouth as well as washing away food particles and the bad bacteria. You may want to look for natural sugar free gum.
- Certain kinds of toothpaste will help. Look for fluoridated toothpaste as well as desensitizing ones. These can help strengthen the tooth enamel
- Avoid the foods we’ve talked about in earlier posts: alcohol, smoking, eating before bed time, etc.
- If you’re suffering from acid reflux see your dentist more frequently so he can monitor your teeth erosion and discuss ways to prevent erosion, dry mouth, etc.
There are many problems with Acid Reflux
As you can see, Acid Reflux, heartburn, GERD, whichever term you want to use, is a serious health issue that needs to be taken care of. In future posts, I will look at Acid Reflux and how it affects other parts of our bodies. Everything from back pain to issues involving pregnancy.
A bit of trivia: The first cases of acid reflux were reported over 200 years ago and it was believed that it was the result of industrial hazards.
Please leave me your comments or questions by clicking on the “comments” link on the left side at the beginning of the article. I will be sure to get back to you.