Dental erosion

The effects of acid reflux

Dental erosion can occur due to many reasons including both extrinsic and intrinsic origins of acid.  Extrinsic acid introduced to teeth through our diets containing soda can have a major impact on the health of our oral cavity. Intrinsic origins of acid can be commonly over looked and contribute to the chronic erosion of teeth. Patients who develop GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) are familiar with acid introduced to the oral cavity intrinsically.  It occurs when contents of the stomach end up in the esophagus and oral cavity as a result of the esophageal sphincter closing inadequately.  

GERD or Acid Reflux affects over 50% of adults and 37% of young people, what contributes to the chronic erosion is when this disease is left undiagnosed and untreated for long periods of time. This can occur frequently especially for people who experience nocturnal or silent reflux and are unaware of the damage the acid is causing to the oral cavity. Some oral symptoms of GERD may include: sour taste, excess salivation, pain on swallowing, tooth sensitivities, chronic decay, generalized mouth irritation and pain.

Although doctors can prescribe medications such as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), there can be many side effects associated with these medications if used for a long time. Ideally Diet and lifestyle changes are encouraged to prevent and even reverse the course of this disease. Such changes include: eliminating all soda pop from diet, stopping eating approximately 4 hours prior to bed, avoid processed, fatty and acidic foods. For people experiencing nocturnal reflux using a wedged pillow during the night and raising the head of the bed by 6 inches is recommended along with walking after meals.

Dentists recommend rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash or to use a fluoride gel daily. Avoid eating acidic or sugary foods to eliminate any triggers related to GERD. Consider wearing a nightguard to protect teeth from any additional damage. Most importantly for people who already have GERD should use baking soda toothpaste with fluoride, dab on teeth with finger and rinse with water several times a day. Do not brush teeth if mouth feels acidic as this will contribute to enamel loss.  Having regular dental checkups, x-rays and cleanings can help with the longevity of your teeth!

Article by Dr. Gloria Alban, DDS, RHN. September, 2016.