Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease ("GERD"), can damage your teeth due to the presence of acid into your mouth.  Many people suffering from GERD experience significant tooth wear and enamel erosion.  People suffering from GERD may experience dry mouth.  When you have dry mouth, the lack of natural saliva to combat dental bacteria and plaque can lead to an increase in cavities and decay. Medications often taken by people dealing with GERD can also cause dry mouth. 

Acid reflux is quite common and causes chronic heartburn. The stomach contents, including acid, leak into the esophagus and can work their way back up into the mouth, causing a burning sensation.

Stomach acid is strong enough to dissolve tooth enamel or soften the tooth surface, slowly wearing it down layer by layer.  Once the outer coating of your teeth (known as enamel) is gone, it is gone forever.   Once the damage becomes severe the tooth may need a crown or veneer.

What helps prevent tooth damage in people with acid reflux?

Saliva is a good defense mechanism since it can neutralize acid.  Saliva contains small amounts of calcium and phosphate ions that can reduce the damage of the tooth.  To keep your saliva flowing throughout the day, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. You also could stimulate saliva production by using artificial saliva substitutes such as Biotene.

However, there is a limit to what saliva can do. 

Here are some tips for dealing with acid reflux:

  • Don't brush immediately after an acid reflux episode. This can spread the acid over your teeth without neutralizing it.  
  • Use a fluoride rinse to neutralize the acid.   
  • Desensitizing toothpaste can make teeth damaged by acid erosion feel better.      
  • Try chewing gum that contains Xylitol, which reduces acid in the mouth and acts as a cariostatic (e.g., helps halt the development of cavities). Saliva containing Xylitol is less acidic than saliva bathed with other sugar products.  When the oral environment is more basic,  naturally occurring calcium and phosphate ions from saliva can be incorporated into the enamel.  In this way, saliva containing Xylitol can help remineralize enamel before dental caries (cavities) can form.

If you have questions on this topic, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Lily Ling at Sherborn Family Dental.

Dr. Lily Ling received her DMD from Tufts Dental School and completed an advanced education in general dentistry  (AEGD) residency at UConn Health Center.

Sherborn Family Dental
19 N. Main St., Ste 1B
Sherborn, MA 01770

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