Acid reflux and enamel loss
You brush, you floss, and you keep up with your dentist appointments. Yet you’re still struggling with cavities and other damage to your teeth. It could be that acid reflux is contributing to the damage that you’re experiencing to the enamel on your teeth. Acid reflux can happen to any of us, particularly after enjoying certain types of foods and drinks. Beyond being uncomfortable, acid reflux can cause a significant amount of damage to your teeth. You may not even know how much damage is being caused until your dentist or hygienist looks at your teeth during your next checkup or cleaning.
Just what is this silent risk to your teeth? Are there any ways to protect your teeth against enamel erosion?
What is acid reflux?
Have you experienced the signs of acid reflux? It could feel like heartburn, a burning discomfort in the middle of your chest, or indigestion, a burning discomfort in your stomach. When you eat and drink, the contents of your stomach are meant to travel just one way: down. When something causes the acid inside of your stomach to flow back up and into your esophagus and your throat, it’s referred to as acid reflux. Any time that stomach acid moves into a part of your body that it’s not meant to be in, you’re going to feel discomfort. For some, it expands past discomfort into pain. When it moves up toward your mouth, the acid can irritate the inside of your esophagus and throat. It can also lead to irritation inside of your mouth. It can irritate your tongue and the soft tissues of your gums. You may notice this discomfort over time. The acid can also erode your tooth enamel, which is something you may not recognize until the damage has been done. While tooth enamel is very strong, over time it can erode from exposure to the acid.
Signs of enamel wear from acid reflux
Acid reflux can erode tooth enamel on the chewing surfaces and also on the inside surfaces, which may make it difficult to notice initially. Your dentist and oral hygienist may notice the enamel erosion during examinations. It’s good to note that enamel erosion is permanent. This makes it important that you’re able to identify some of the early signs of enamel erosion.
- Sensitivity or discomfort when drinking cold, hot, or sugary drinks
- Discoloration on a tooth, typically a yellowing
- Changes to fillings and other dental work; your filling may erode
- Increased number of cavities
In more severe situations, you may develop an oral abscess. You may also ultimately face the loss of a tooth.
Can you treat teeth with enamel erosion?
Once tooth enamel is gone, it cannot be replaced. However, if the tooth is not treated in a timely manner, you could experience a worsening of any dental issues. And, of course, you may lose the tooth if decay spreads without being addressed.
What then can you do to help protect any teeth that have been damaged from acid reflux? Your treatment plan will depend on the extent of damage and whether you have damage to other teeth in your mouth.
Some of the treatments for damaged teeth may include:
Fillings: This is a good option to consider if the damage is not yet severe. A filling can help to smooth out the area that’s been damaged, remove any signs of decay, and restore the aesthetics and functionality to your tooth.
Dental Crown: A crown may be the better option to consider if the damage to your tooth enamel is extensive.
Root canal treatment: If the damage to your tooth has spread into the root canals of the tooth, you may need to undergo a root canal procedure. Your tooth will then likely need to be protected by a crown.
Extraction: If the damage to the tooth is so severe that none of the standard procedures can help to save it, your dentist may recommend an extraction.
Veneers: If your teeth have enamel loss and not much other damage to your teeth, your dentist may recommend veneers. Veneers can help to restore your smile and can be used on one, two, or all of your teeth. Quite often veneers are used as a way to not just restore a smile but to transform a smile. You could go a few shades whiter and brighter, as an example.
The key to a less complicated treatment for enamel loss from acid reflux is early intervention. This is just one of the many reasons that it’s so important to keep up with your routine cleanings and examinations. Your hygienist and dentist can spot issues and recommend a treatment plan that will address them. Dental professionals are, in fact, quite often the first health care professionals to identify acid reflux.
Can you prevent enamel loss from acid reflux?
The best way to prevent enamel loss from acid reflux is to address the acid reflux itself. A visit with a gastroenterologist can help you to get a correct diagnosis. From the diagnosis can come a treatment plan to help treat the underlying issues. Your gastroenterologist may have you alter your diet, to exclude spicy and greasy foods. You may also benefit from certain medications.
In addition to following the treatment guidance from your gastroenterologist, there are a few steps that you can take to further protect your teeth from enamel loss.
- After a reflux episode, rinse your mouth well with water. This can help to reduce the acid that’s in your mouth.
- Avoid the urge to brush your teeth after you have a reflux episode. Brushing, even gently, may result in damage to the enamel on your teeth that may have already been exposed to and weakened by the acid.
- Rinse your mouth with baking soda stirred into cold water if the reflux is uncomfortable. This can help to neutralize the acid in your mouth.
- Speak with your dentist to get recommendations for toothpastes and mouth rinses that have fluoride in them. This may help to lower the demineralized risk for your teeth.
- Chew gum, sugar-free of course. The action of chewing sugar-free gum can increase saliva flow in your mouth. In turn, this can lower the amount of acid in your mouth.
Have you scheduled your next checkup? Be sure to keep up with your routine checkups and cleanings. Not only to keep your smile picture-perfect but to ensure you’re catching any potential issues when they first show up. Contact us today!