If you are one of the 7 million people in America that suffer from severe acid reflux from chronic heartburn, you are probably all too familiar with the uncomfortable symptoms. However, did you know that acid reflux could seriously affect your teeth? Dr. Kenneth Ingber explains the reasons behind this startling discovery.
People who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, are at a high risk of tooth wear and erosion (and may not even know it). GERD causes stomach acid to leak into the esophagus and work its way up to the mouth, where it will wear down the tooth enamel and cause serious damage. Ultimately, GERD can lead to thin, sharp and pitted teeth.
“Patients often are not aware of the damage that reflux-induced erosion has caused to their teeth until it has reached an advanced stage of destruction,” said Dr. David Lazarchik, who studied acid reflux-induced erosion and published his findings in the Academy of General Dentistry’s clinical peer-reviewed journal.
The acidity of a substance is measured by the power of hydrogen (pH) on a scale of 0 to 14. A low pH level indicates more acid, and a high pH level indicates less acid. According to Dr. Lazarchik, dental enamel begins to erode at a pH of 5.5. Stomach acid has a very low pH of 2.0, making it extremely harmful to the teeth.
Further research confirmed Dr. Lazarchik’s findings. A more recent study from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center followed patients for six months, and found that nearly half of all subjects with GERD had much more significant tooth wear and erosion than healthy people.
Signs of Tooth Erosion
If you suffer from acid reflux, it’s important to keep an eye out for early signs of tooth erosion. Once the enamel of the tooth has completely worn away, it’s gone for good. However, if caught early enough, you could prevent the total loss of enamel.
Signs of tooth erosion include:
- Sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet food / beverages, which will increase in severity as more enamel wears away
- Slightly yellow discoloration as the thinning enamel exposes underlying dentin
- Transparency near the biting edges of the front teeth
- Rounded teeth
- Small cracks near the edge of the teeth
- Small dents in the chewing surface of the teeth
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms and think they might be related to acid reflux? Please call Dr. Ingber at 888-549-7682 to schedule an appointment and learn more about what you can do to protect your teeth.
How to Manage Acid Reflux
If you suffer from acid reflux, you are likely aware that your diet can trigger symptoms. Spicy, fatty or fried foods, citrus fruits and beverages and dairy products have all been linked to acid reflux.
If you experience an acid reflux episode, rinse your mouth afterward with water, and avoid brushing your teeth for at least an hour. Chew xylitol gum or another kind of sugarless gum, lozenge or candy to produce more saliva, which neutralizes acid and may reduce the damage to the tooth.
It’s important to make Dr. Ingber aware of your acid reflux (and any other medical conditions) during your next dental appointment. He needs to have a full understanding of your medical history and current health status in order to provide you with the highest quality of care.
Also, if you haven’t already, speak to your primary care physician about treating and preventing acid reflux. According to Dr. Fares Elias of the Academy of General Dentistry, who has experienced acid reflux himself, “Treating reflux-induced erosion without treating and preventing the medical condition that causes the erosion may only lead to more severe problems for your oral health in the future.”
Dr. Ingber Can Help
Dr. Ingber offers several restorative dentistry solutions for teeth that are significantly worn. For example, he can place a dental crown, veneer or filling to add strength and structure to the tooth and improve its appearance. Contact him today to learn more about the options he offers. Please call 888-549-7682 or send us an email.