Whether you call it heartburn, excessing burping, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or silent reflux, it means the same thing; acid from your stomach is flowing back into your esophagus. Many people don’t realize that this acid can travel all the way up the esophagus and into your mouth.
What is acid reflux?
Recent medical studies show that 20% of adults have acid reflux at least once a month. For some, it’s a daily occurrence. Usually, when a person hears the words ‘acid reflux’ they automatically think about their stomach first. Considering that you can control acid reflux by avoiding onions, garlic, fried foods, chocolate, tomatoes, citrus fruit, spicy meals, coffee and alcohol, it’s normal to be concerned about the types of food you put into your body.
Those living with silent reflux live with a totally different set of symptoms. They might not realize the constant coughing, excessive throat-clearing, sore throat and hoarseness they experience is due to acid reflux. For these individuals, their dentist can be the first medical professional to discuss acid reflux with them.
Since acid reflux can damage your teeth, in addition to your stomach and esophagus, it’s important to let your dentist know if you are experiencing acid reflux and how frequently this happens.
After all, if stomach acid is constantly contacting your teeth, it can cause tooth erosion. In addition, those living with acid reflux often suck on candies or throat lozenges to help eliminate the burning sensation. If these are made of sugar, that’s a double whammy for your teeth!
Here are a few tips on keeping your teeth healthy if you have acid reflux:
Discuss health changes with your dentist. If you were recently diagnosed with acid reflux or GERD, tell your dentist. The dentist will look for erosion on your back teeth. If you have any signs of silent reflux, mention it to your dentist.
Realize your dentist cares about your overall health. Sometimes, dentists see the damage on molars on the back and will discuss acid reflux with patients. Many people are so use to eating antacids after meals that they don’t realize they are living with acid reflux disease.
Tell your dentist what medications you are taking. Some of the medications people take to control their acid reflux can cause dry mouth. Saliva plays an important role in your oral hygiene since it helps to wash away food particles. A dry mouth has more bacteria and plaque, which can cause more tooth decay.
Switch to sugar-free candy and sugar-free gum. If chewing on gum or sucking on hard candy after a meal helps to eliminate your acid reflux symptoms, make sure you avoid those with sugar.
Ask what toothpaste you should use. Fluoride plays a key role in protecting your teeth. Depending on your specific situation, your dentist might recommend a prescription fluoride and desensitizing toothpaste.
See your dentist for regular check-ups. Acid reflux increases the chance of damage to your tooth’s enamel, which causes tooth decay. Frequent dental check-ups are the only way to stop dental issues at the earliest stages.