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Erosion: Reflux, Upset Stomach, and Your Teeth

Frequent upset stomach can cause a gradual eroding of the protecting enamel on your teeth, a process called tooth erosion. This may have an effect on the physical appearance of your teeth and can also open the door to harmful bacteria that cause cavities.

How do stomach issues have an effect on my teeth?

Your stomach produces natural acids that facilitate your body in digestion of food. Sometimes, these acids travel up the throat and into the mouth, particularly after an oversized meal. Ordinarily, our saliva rebalances the acid levels in our mouth naturally, and everything’s fine. 

But for people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux, also known as acid reflux or GERD, stomach acids reach the mouth throughout the day. Reflux can be especially damaging during sleep because you swallow less than normal and your mouth manufactures less saliva when you are sleeping.

Another concern is dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, which can be caused by medications, including several acid reflux medicines.  Saliva not only helps neutralize the acids caused by acid reflux, but also helps to clean away food particles and cut back on bacteria that can attack your tooth enamel. This is often why lower saliva production might increase your risk for cavities. 

What will Reflux-Related Erosion do to my teeth?

Acid reflux might wear away the enamel on the surfaces of your teeth. Your dentist can check for this at your regular dental exam.

Unfortunately, tooth erosion is permanent. If your enamel has begun to wear away, you may:

• Feel pain or sensitivity when you consume hot, cold or sweet drinks

• Notice a discoloration of the teeth

• Find that your fillings have changed

• Face larger risks for cavities over time

• Experience tooth loss

Once erosion of the enamel happens, you might need dental treatment such as: fillings, crowns, a root canal, or even tooth extraction in order to prevent pain and further risk. For cosmetic discoloration, veneers can help to restore the look of your smile. 

How to defend your teeth and obtain relief?

• Chewing sugar-free gum will encourage saliva production, which helps neutralize and wash away the acids in your mouth. Check for the ADA Seal of Acceptance on the gum you choose.

• Using prescription or over the counter fluoride and desensitizing toothpaste can help to strengthen tooth enamel. 

• Avoiding alcohol and smoking and refraining from eating for three hours before bed might cut back the frequency of acid reflux episodes.

• If heartburn, acid reflux or alternative stomach issues are a part of your everyday life, work together with your dentist and physician to treat the underlying causes of your stomach troubles. 

• If you suffer from acid reflux, see your dentist frequently so that they will check that your teeth stay healthy, suggest ways to stop tooth erosion, and recommend ways to prevent dry mouth.