Acid reflux is an uncomfortable, sometimes painful condition that occurs when stomach acid and other contents in the stomach make their way back up the esophagus. Sometimes known as heartburn or indigestion, acid reflux is incredibly common, as many of us consume foods that disrupt our digestive system without knowing. However, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of the population get acid reflux more than twice a week, a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Obviously, GERD severely affects an individual’s digestive tract by eroding the esophagus. However, there are less obvious side effects caused by acid reflux—and that includes the effect is has on your oral health.
Your mouth comes into contact with acidic substances every day, which is why saliva works to rebalance your mouth’s pH levels. Ideally, your mouth’s pH level should be close to neutral, which means it would measure around 7 on the pH scale. However, pH levels can drop to acidic quite easily based on the food you eat and other conditions, such as acid reflux. When acid reflux progresses to GERD, your saliva becomes overworked at maintaining a balanced pH level.
Furthermore, your saliva production is reduced during sleep, so if you suffer from acid reflux disease, then your stomach acid can collect in your mouth more than it normally would while you’re awake.
What happens to your teeth because of this buildup of acid?
Acid wears down your tooth enamel—the hardened layer around your teeth that protect them from decay. Enamel erosion, as it is called, is a very serious condition because tooth enamel cannot regenerate once it is gone. Therefore, if you suffer from acid reflux disease, then make sure you take extra care of your oral hygiene to prevent oral acidity. There are several things you can do to help protect your teeth if you suffer from GERD:
- Chew sugar free gum with xylitol. Chewing gum can help boost saliva production, which neutralizes the acids in your mouth. It has to be sugar free to work, though, because sugar only increases acid levels in your mouth.
- Use an alkaline mouthwash rinse like Alka-White mouthwash tablets to neutralize the acids in your mouth. Preferably, you would use the alkaline mouthwash rinse every night about 30 minutes before you go to sleep to keep your mouth in an alkaline environment while you sleep and gargle to reduce GERD. You can also use the rinse around 30 minutes after you eat.
- Talk to your dentist about tooth erosion. Typically, they recommend fluoride to reduce teeth sensitivity. Avoid whitening or bleaching products which cause more erosion.
- Reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol is notorious for creating an imbalance in the body’s and the mouth’s pH levels. Furthermore, alcohol and smoking can actually contribute to more episodes of acid reflux and cause dehydration. Never drink alcohol after dinner! Whatever sits on top of the bolus of food is what is regurgitated during your sleep. Drink Peppermint or herbal tea and stay well hydrated with alkaline water.
- Make frequent visits to your dentist. Since your teeth will come into consistent contact with acid if you suffer from GERD, it’s important for your dentist to keep a close eye on your oral health.