On a daily basis, over 10% of Americans experience the unpleasant burning feeling of heartburn. Many of these people aren’t aware, however, that heartburn is often a symptom of Gastroesopheageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD.
What is it?
Acid reflux occurs when the lower muscles of the esophagus relax, causing stomach acids to flow up into the esophagus and mouth. This acid results in inflammation and irritation, which can be very detrimental to your oral health. In some cases, acid reflux can progress further and develop into GERD. The esophageal muscles of patients who have GERD are unable to keep stomach acid down, which causes the corrosion of esophageal lining along with the uncomfortable burning sensation associated with heartburn.
Signs and Symptoms of GERD
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chipping and/or discoloration of teeth
- Bad breath
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Sore throat
How does GERD affect my oral health?
Because the flow of acid is so detrimental to the esophagus, having GERD can put an individual at higher risk for esophageal cancer. In addition, GERD can result in the erosion of tooth enamel. Studies show that enamel erosion occurs when the pH is lower than 5.5, and because the pH of stomach acid is only 2, the negative impact it has on your teeth can be huge.
How can I protect my teeth from acid reflux and GERD?
- Visit your dentist on a regular basis so your tooth enamel can be evaluated
- Rinse your mouth with water after acid reflux episodes
- Receive fluoride treatments to strengthen tooth enamel
- Avoid over-the-counter antacids that are high in sugar, especially at night
- Use dentin-sensitive toothpaste
- Don’t brush your teeth for 60 minutes after consuming acidic foods or beverages
- Wear a dentist prescribed night guard at night to prevent stomach acid from harming your teeth
- Dissolve baking soda in water and swish around in mouth after acid reflux episodes occur
- Use GC MI Paste from your dentist to balance your mouth pH levels