7 Ways to Fight Acid Reflux and Save Your Mouth
No one likes acid reflux. It’s painful, unsettling, and is usually accompanied by severe heartburn. But if you’re one of the over seven million people who suffer from severe acid reflux, there is also something else you should worry about: the damage it can do to your teeth.
What Acid Reflux Can Do
Chronic acid reflux, known to doctors as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when stomach acid leaks up into the esophagus, usually causing heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea. This acid is so strong that, when it reaches the mouth, it can eat away at the enamel of your teeth, causing irreparable damage in a manner of months.
While saliva is meant to help neutralize acid and keep your teeth healthy, a consistent barrage of stomach acid caused by GERD is enough to overpower the mouth’s natural defenses. Once your enamel is gone, it’s gone for good, leaving the sensitive dentin layer of the teeth exposed, and speeding up the tooth decay process.
Suffice it to say, GERD is not something you want to leave to its own devices, for the sake of your health and the sake of your teeth. Luckily, there are steps you can take in the early stages of GERD to prevent chronic acid reflux from causing permanent damage.
What You Can Do
- Go to your 6-month checkup. Hopefully you’re doing this already, but if you’re suffering from heartburn on a regular basis, it’s especially important to visit your dentist periodically. Dentists can see damage caused by acid reflux even in the very early stages, and work in conjunction with your physician to get you the right treatment before it becomes a real problem. In fact, over 90 percent of systemic diseases present oral symptoms, so going to the dentist can do more than just save your teeth.
- See your doctor. Over the counter medications won’t cut it. Make sure you see your doctor to find out what course of action is best for your condition. It’s important to go as soon as you think there’s a problem, because the longer you wait, the worse the damage will be.
- Avoid acidic food and drink. While it’s already good dental health practice to cut down on acidic foods; if you suffer from chronic acid reflux, eliminating these things altogether can lessen your chances of an episode, and help you keep your teeth strong and healthy. Citrus, tomatoes, dairy products, spicy and fried foods, fatty meats, chocolate, and caffeine are a few of the major offenders you should watch out for. Cutting these foods out may not seem like fun, but your body and mouth will thank you in the end.
- Rinse your mouth out after every episode. If you do have an acid reflux episode, rinse your mouth out thoroughly with water to remove any acid that may remain. The worst damage is done from acidic contents that stay on your teeth for long periods of time. Even better, rinse with a baking soda and water mix to help neutralize the acid in the mouth and allow for better fluoride uptake. This is also good practice if you find it difficult to cut out all acidic foods. Rinse your mouth out after that morning coffee and keep your enamel strong.
- Brush with fluoridated toothpaste. But not right away. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste will help strengthen your enamel and prevent it from being eaten away. Your dentist can even prescribe stronger toothpaste to bolster your defenses, if necessary.
Don’t brush right after an episode, however. It might be tempting to get that taste out of your mouth immediately, but this is when your enamel is at its weakest. Wait 60 minutes after any reflux and always use a soft-bristled brush for best results.
- Antacids aren’t just for your stomach. TUMS can help neutralize acid in your stomach and in your mouth. Instead of chewing or swallowing, let a sugar-free antacid dissolve in your mouth to get rid of the acid that is trying to cause damage to your teeth.
- 4 out of 5 dentists recommend chewing Trident. Or any sugarless gum, really. Chewing gum increases your saliva, which increases your natural defenses against acid. Give your mouth some extra help and chew some gum.
Chronic Acid Reflux is no fun for anyone, but as long as you take the steps to nip it in the bud, it doesn’t have to mean long-term damage to your dental health. As always, your dentists are here to help you live a happy, healthy life, all you have to do is book an appointment.