Are you the type of person who needs a cup of coffee to get going in the morning, and enjoys drinking a glass of wine to relax after a long day? Do you love your food spicy or fried? Do you love to eat citrus fruits? Then you may be doing your body harm, and not the way you think. All of these foods and beverages can cause gastroesophageal acid reflux disease, or GERD. The disease, often referred to as acid reflux, causes the acids in your stomach to back up into the throat, and sometimes into the mouth. Acid reflux can cause damage to the esophagus, but it may also cause problems for your oral health. To learn more about how acid reflux can affect your oral health, call our Docklands dental office today at (03) 9021-9487.
What is GERD?
GERD is a condition in which the muscle at the end of the esophagus, which separates the esophagus from the stomach, fails to shut properly and allows stomach acids to pass through. For many patients, this will present as heartburn. If you experience heartburn symptoms more than once or twice a week, you should discuss this with your general practitioner, as it may mean you have acid reflux disease. Other symptoms include coughing, hoarseness, and a difficulty swallowing. Some patients, however, may never experience these symptoms, and their dentist may know they have GERD before they know themselves.
How Acid Reflux Affects Your Oral Health
Often, a patient’s first warning of acid reflux comes from his dentist. The dentist will notice an erosion of the enamel on the patient’s molars, caused by the acid that backs up from the stomach. If left untreated, acid reflux can erode the enamel of the teeth so badly that cavities, or even tooth loss, may occur. Your dentist will advise you to see a specialist or your general practitioner for a precise diagnosis and treatment recommendations. If your doctor recommends medication, ask about the side effects, as some medication used to fight GERD can cause dry mouth, leading to excess dental plaque.
How You Can Protect Your Teeth
If your doctor diagnoses you with acid reflux, he or she will likely recommend a change in eating habits before using medication. This can help your teeth, as the change will usually involve eating fewer acidic foods. Regardless of whether your doctor recommends lifestyle changes or medication, you can do a few things to help ensure the safety of your teeth when reflux occurs.
When a reflux attack hits, you will probably feel the need to brush your teeth immediately, to rid your mouth of the acidic taste. Do not do this. You should wait at least an hour after an attack to brush your teeth, as the acids will weaken the enamel and brushing right away could do further damage. Instead, rinse your mouth with water to dilute the acid. You can also rinse with a mixture of water and baking soda, which will help neutralize the acids. Your dentist may recommend a fluoride rinse to help protect your teeth from demineralization. Finally, keep some sugar-free gum or mints on hand. Chewing or sucking on these will stimulate the flow of saliva, washing the acids away.
Call Us Today
To learn more about the relationship between acid reflux and dental health, or to schedule an appointment with one of our dentists, call our Docklands dental office today at (03) 9021-9487.