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If you are one of the 60 million Americans who experience acid reflux, you know it can affect many aspects of your life, but did you know acid reflux can even damage your dental health?
Acid reflux, commonly known as heartburn, can be a chronic condition. Over time, acid reflux may have some surprising and worrisome consequences. Keep reading to find out more about how and why acid reflux harms your teeth and what you can do about it.
How Can Heartburn Hurt Your Teeth?
Acid reflux occurs as a result of too much stomach acid. In turn, this acid moves up the esophagus and causes the pain commonly known as heartburn.
During this process, acid can actually make it as far as the saliva in your mouth and reach your teeth. Acids, including stomach acid and those in the foods you eat, can affect the protective outer layer of your teeth. Acid can slowly wear away this enamel, silently damaging teeth in the process.
Tooth sensitivity may be the first indication of acid damaging your teeth. If you find that hot, cold, or sweet foods bother your teeth, you might consider if acid reflux may be to blame. As more damage occurs and enamel is compromised, tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease can result.
How to Save Your Teeth from Acid Reflux Damage
If you suffer from heartburn, follow these tips to prevent acid reflux from damaging your teeth.
Treat Your Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is a treatable condition. Discuss ways to control your acid reflux with your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist. They may recommend some or all of the following suggestions:
- Losing weight
- Avoiding certain foods
- Sleeping in an elevated position
- Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
- Certain medications
Maintain Excellent Oral Hygiene
Brushing your teeth twice a day for two full minutes is the first and most important step toward protecting your teeth. Make sure to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride as this mineral helps to replenish tooth enamel. Adding a fluoride mouthwash to also help remineralize soft spots is another great option.
Use the Right Toothpaste
Ask your dentist what type of toothpaste they recommend. You may be surprised to learn that the whitening toothpaste you have been using for years is increasing the sensitivity you’re experiencing. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste instead will help to strengthen your enamel. Your dentist can also prescribe a stronger toothpaste to bolster your defenses, if necessary.
Delay Brushing After a Meal
It may be counterintuitive, but it is never recommended to brush your teeth immediately after a meal. This is even more important for patients who suffer from acid reflux. Waiting at least an hour after eating will allow your enamel to harden before you brush.
You can lower your risk of acid reflux by eating smaller meals throughout the day as well as changing your diet. Tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate, coffee, garlic, onions, and meals that are spicy, acidic, or high in fat content can all trigger reflux. Another recommendation is to avoid lying down or reclining directly after eating.
Chew Sugarfree Gum
Chewing sugarfree gum can encourage saliva production. Saliva helps to neutralize and wash away acids in your mouth. Choose an option with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
The worst damage from acid is done when acid stays on your teeth for extended periods. After experiencing an acid reflux episode, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water to remove any acid that may remain on the surfaces of your teeth. Rinsing with a baking soda and water mix can help to neutralize the acid in your mouth and allow for better fluoride uptake.
Repair Damage Right Away
Depending on the extent of the damage, you may require dental bonding, which can offer additional protection for a damaged tooth by covering any areas of concern. If your dentist discovers that you have lost too much enamel, they may recommend a crown to prevent further damage and save the tooth.
Schedule Regular Dental Exams
Regular exams are vital to maintaining your tooth enamel. Your dentist is trained to detect early symptoms of potentially dangerous conditions before they progress.
Don’t suffer from chronic acid reflux in silence. Call today to learn more about preventing acid reflux from damaging your teeth.