Gastroesophageal acid reflux disease, or GERD, is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, with about 20 percent of adults suffering from this disorder at some point. If you are suffering from heartburn after eating, you may want to visit your doctor to see if you have developed this issue. GERD causes stomach acids to regurgitate into the esophagus and the mouth.
Regurgitated stomach acids can affect your oral health. Take a look at why GERD can become a dental issue and how to address it.
What Dental Issues Can be Caused by GERD?
Stomach acids can be detrimental to teeth and actually cause enamel to wear away. When enamel is thinned out, the underlying dentin can become more sensitive, so you may experience pain or tooth sensitivity when eating or drinking very hot or cold foods. In worst-case scenarios, stomach acids can open teeth to cavities. Besides functional issues, GERD can diminish tooth aesthetics for some people. Because stomach acid can thin enamel, a person's teeth may appear more transparent, and the underlying dentin (which is yellow in color) can show through.
How Can You Manage GERD?
If your doctor diagnoses you with GERD, he or she may recommend that you identify and abstain from certain trigger foods. Common triggers include things like chocolate, garlic, onions, citrus fruits, fatty foods, and/or spicy foods. Sometimes GERD is caused by medications—like beta-blockers—or other medical conditions, like diabetes, so managing the primary health condition may improve GERD and other symptoms. Some people may need to make lifestyle changes, like losing excess weight or cutting the use of cigarettes and alcohol.
How Can You Protect Your Teeth?
If you still struggle with GERD—even with lifestyle changes—there are, thankfully, still ways you can protect your teeth.
For instance, you may be tempted to immediately brush your teeth after experiencing an episode of acid reflux, but this is a bad idea since the brush bristles can actually push the stomach acids into your enamel. Instead, you should rinse your mouth out with water and then wait about an hour before brushing. If you still have a bad taste in your mouth, you may want to chew an antacid or rinse your mouth with baking soda and water.
If your GERD causes dry mouth, then chewing sugar-free xylitol gum can be helpful since it encourages saliva flow. Saliva is the mouth's natural cleaning agent and can help neutralize stomach acids.
You can protect your teeth from GERD by maintaining regular dental appointments. One study found that certain fluoride gels can significantly reduce enamel loss due to GERD. Your dentist can apply in-office fluoride varnish treatments, and he or she can prescribe desensitizing toothpaste that you can use at home.
Reach out to a dentist in your area today to learn more.