A few hours after devouring the Jucy Lucy-fer Burger at Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers, you’re lying in bed with that familiar burning pain in your chest. Heartburn strikes again!
About 60 million Americans suffer from acid reflux at least once a month. It occurs when the acid in your stomach backflows into your esophagus, the tube that connects the throat and stomach. When that happens, you may notice a sour taste in the back of your mouth or a sharp, burning feeling in your chest (heartburn).
Frequent heartburn may be a symptom of a chronic, more severe form of acid reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD.
Acid Reflux and Teeth
Acid reflux and GERD are more than just uncomfortable—these medical conditions can harm your oral health. Let’s take a look at the exact relationship between acid reflux and teeth.
Although the most common symptom of acid reflux is a burning feeling in the throat or chest, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the only sign of the disease is tooth sensitivity. This happens because acidic stomach juices come into contact with the mouth and break down teeth over time. This is why dentists are often the first health care professional to see signs of acid reflux or GERD.
Caring for Your Teeth When You Have Acid Reflux
Specialists called gastroenterologists typically create a treatment plan for chronic acid reflux and GERD. But that plan may not include tips on protecting your teeth. If you have acid reflux regularly, here are some tips for preventing acid reflux damage to your teeth:
- Be a smart brusher – No dentist will tell you to brush your teeth less (and neither will we). However, brushing right after you notice the symptoms of acid reflux can make any existing damage worse. If you need to clean your mouth or freshen your breath immediately following an acid reflux episode, try rinsing your mouth out with water or baking soda.
- Chew sugar-free gum – This can stimulate your saliva glands and freshens your breath. Saliva protects your teeth and helps wash away the harmful acids that enter your mouth when you have acid reflux or GERD.
- Change your diet – Spicy foods, caffeinated drinks and even cigarette smoking can trigger acid reflux. Avoid these items, especially before bed.
- Tell your dentist – If your dentist doesn’t know you have chronic acid reflux, make sure to tell them. They can help you come up with a treatment plan to protect your chompers, limiting acid reflux damage to your teeth with specific toothpastes, rinses, and more.
- See a specialist – Don’t let chronic acid reflux go untreated. Talk to a gastroenterologist about treatment.