Did you know your digestive health can affect your teeth?
Frequent stomach upset can cause a gradual wearing away of the protective enamel on your teeth, a process known as tooth erosion. This can affect the appearance of your teeth and open the door for harmful bacteria that cause cavities.
How Do Stomach Problems Affect My Teeth?
Your stomach produces natural acids that help your body digest food. Sometimes, these acids travel up the throat and into the mouth, especially after a large meal. Ordinarily, our saliva rebalances the acid levels in our mouth and everything’s fine.
But for those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux, also known as acid reflux or GERD, gastric acids reach the mouth throughout the day. This process is especially damaging when you’re asleep, since you are swallowing less often and your mouth is producing less saliva.
Another concern is the dry mouth caused by many acid reflux medicines. Saliva not only helps neutralize the acids caused by acid reflux, but also helps to wash away food particles and reduce bacteria that attack tooth enamel. This is why lower saliva production may increase your risk for cavities.
What Does Reflux-Related Erosion Do to My Teeth?
Acid reflux can wear away the enamel on the inside surfaces of your teeth, as well as the chewing surfaces. Your dentist may notice this during an exam.
Unfortunately, tooth erosion is permanent. If your enamel has started to wear away, you may:
- Feel pain or sensitivity when consuming hot, cold or sweet drinks
- Notice a yellowish discoloration of the teeth
- Find that your fillings have changed
- Face greater risks for cavities over time
- Develop an abscess, in extreme cases
- Experience tooth loss, also in extreme cases
How to Protect Your Teeth – And Get Relief
- Chewing sugar-free gum can encourage saliva production, which helps neutralize and wash away the acids in your mouth. Look for one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
- Prescription or over-the-counter fluoride and desensitizing toothpastes may help strengthen tooth enamel.
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking and refraining from eating 3 hours before bedtime may reduce the frequency of acid reflux episodes.
- If heartburn, acid reflux or other stomach problems are part of your daily life, work with your physician on a care plan to treat the underlying causes of your stomach troubles.
- If you suffer from acid reflux, see your dentist regularly so they can make sure your teeth stay healthy, recommend ways to prevent tooth enamel erosion and suggest ways to get relief if you are also suffering from dry mouth.