Acid Reflux Disease and Tooth Erosion

Acid reflux disease - woman smiling happily, showing off white teeth

Acid Reflux Disease and Tooth Erosion

Acid reflux disease starts in the stomach, but that doesn’t mean its symptoms are only felt there. In fact, it can cause serious tooth erosion as acid rises up the esophagus and enters the mouth. As a holistic dental care facility, Prescott Dentistry focuses on treating any condition that might affect your oral health. Even though acid reflux begins in the stomach, our expert dental staff can recognize the signs and help you get the treatment you need.

What Is Acid Reflux Disease?

Acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when the acids that your stomach naturally produces rise up into the throat. Typically, the lower esophageal sphincter closes when someone is not swallowing food. However, if it does not fully close, acid can rise and enter the esophagus. This results in symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, bad breath, and tooth enamel erosion.

What Causes Acid Reflux Disease?

Causes can vary, but one or both of the following conditions are the typical causes of GERD:

  • Obesity

Clinical research has found that an increasing body mass index correlates with higher acidic exposure in the esophagus. Two explanations are possible. Either the diets associated with weight gain promote increased acid production, or the increase in body mass interferes in the sphincter’s closure, allowing the acid to rise.

  • Hiatal Hernias

This type of hernia occurs when abdominal organs such as the stomach slip past the diaphragm into the middle compartment of the chest. This makes it more difficult for the lower esophagus to fully close, and it cannot prevent acid from rising into the esophagus.

Additionally, some lifestyle choices in regards to eating and sleep habits can also cause GERD. Frequently eating large meals causes distension of the upper part of the stomach. Going to sleep right after a large meal can limit the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter. Without a suitable amount of pressure, the sphincter will be unable to close, and acid reflux can begin.

How Does GERD Affect Oral Health?

Two of the most easily noticed oral symptoms of GERD are the sour taste of acid in one’s mouth along with bad breath. However, less noticeable but more worrisome is the erosion of tooth enamel. Stomach acid can quickly eat away at the enamel, leaving your teeth vulnerable to cavities. Enamel erosion allows for damage to the teeth’s dentin, cementum, and roots, along with infections. Eventually, tooth decay from enamel erosion can result in severe tooth pain and even tooth loss.

How Can I Treat GERD?

Treatment options for acid reflux disease will vary depending on the causes. In the case of eating habits, the simple answer is moderating how much you eat and when. If obesity is the cause, by exercising and planning your diet carefully, you can begin losing weight over time.

If a hiatal hernia is to blame, treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. Generally, patients experience hiatal hernias due to an injury or by too much pressure on the muscles surrounding the stomach. In such cases, you will need to rest and recover. However, if a hiatal hernia is particularly large, surgery is typically the best treatment option.

In many cases, prescription or over-the-counter medication can help treat acid reflux. Antacids like TUMS neutralize stomach acids, while H2 blockers like Pepcid AC and proton pump inhibitors (PPI) like Prilosec can be used to lower the amount of acid the stomach produces. Generally, these medications can be purchased at a drugstore, but higher dosages will require a doctor’s prescription.

Of course, taking medications will not necessarily treat the underlying causes of acid reflux disease, and are more a stop-gap measure. However, for early intervention, they can help prevent tooth decay from enamel erosion until medical treatments or lifestyle changes can be implemented.

Do You Have Acid Reflux Disease?

If you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of GERD, especially on a regular basis, then it’s important to speak with a holistic dental care specialist. Our team at Prescott Dentistry can diagnose enamel erosion from acid reflux and help you understand what steps you can take to treat it. We can also offer you treatment options for restoring a smile damaged by acid reflux disease. Contact us today at 928-445-1660 to schedule an appointment.