How Acid Reflux Affects Your Teeth

As if the pain and discomfort of heartburn wasn’t enough to worry about, there is yet another danger associated with having acid reflux.  Acid-reflux erosion, a condition that occurs when stomach contents reflux into the mouth causes permanent and severe loss of tooth structure.

The potential of hydrogen, or pH, is a standard way to measure the acidity of a substance. It is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. A lower pH means that a solution contains more acid. The higher the pH, the more alkaline (or non-acidic) the solution.  Tooth enamel starts to dissolve at a pH of 5.5, says Claude Maroui of Scottsdale AZ.  Stomach acid has an extremely low pH (2.0).  That means it is very acidic, and although the cells of your stomach lining are specially equipped to keep the acid from causing damage, when the stomach acid makes its way up your esophagus and into your mouth, it has the potential to cause significant damage to all of the areas that are not specially equipped, including your teeth.  The result is reflux-induced erosion.

If your dentist diagnoses you with reflux-induced erosion, here are some measures to take to control the situation:

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  • 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

In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, it’s important to tell your dentist of any medical conditions like acid reflux that can have an effect on your oral health.  In some cases, other medical conditions not having to do with oral health can have an impact, and treating the erosion without treating the underlying cause may lead to more severe problems down the line.