Besides the usual six-month cleanings, we try to keep our visits to the dentist to an absolute minimum. However, brushing and flossing at least twice a day may not be enough to save tooth enamel in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. As if the chronic burning sensation isn’t enough to deal with, new research reveals GERD can severely damage your teeth due to an inflow of acid into the mouth.
GERD has the potential to thin, sharpen and pit your teeth.
For most sufferers of GERD, symptoms can be controlled through prescription medications or with reflux surgery for more severe cases, but what about your pearly whites? Chronic heart burn triggered by GERD can produce stomach acids strong enough to soften the surface of teeth, or in some cases even dissolve the surface of teeth altogether and continue to wear them down layers at a time.
The Journal of the American Dental Association published a study that measured chronic heartburn’s effects on the teeth of 12 people suffering from GERD in comparison to six healthy patients without GERD for a period of six months. This study was the first to track GERD’s effects on tooth erosion for a substantial amount of time. The study revealed via optical scanner that nearly half of the GERD participants experienced more tooth erosion than the study’s healthy participants.
Unfortunately, tooth enamel cannot be repaired once it becomes eroded. In order to treat a tooth that has eroded your dentist will need to crown, fill or use a veneer to fix and protect what’s left of the tooth. Luckily for GERD patients there is one natural defense mechanism at work. Saliva acts a natural buffer to neutralize the stomach acids that flow into the mouth as a result of GERD, and also contains minute amounts of phosphate and calcium ions which help minimize tooth damage.
Despite saliva’s limits on enamel protection, there are additional methods patients of GERD can use to protect teeth from further erosion.
Here are a few tips to help keep you out of the dentist’s office outside of your usual cleanings.
- Do not brush your teeth directly following an acid reflux episode. Instead, use a fluoride rinse.
- If you tend to have a dry mouth, drink more water during the day to increase saliva production.
- Chew sugar-free gum with xylitol which helps reduce the acids from your foods and drinks.
- Ask your dentist about trying prescription toothpaste for acid reflux patients.
- Talk to your doctor about treatments for your GERD such as prescriptions or reflux surgery.
It is important to protect tooth enamel as much as possible, especially if you suffer from GERD. Talk with your doctor about ways to treat your GERD and help protect your teeth from erosion caused by chronic heart burn.