We all get heartburn now and then, especially as we get older and our stomachs can’t handle spicy foods like when we were younger. If you are experiencing heartburn or tasting stomach acid in the back of your throat more than twice a week then you may have acid reflux disease. You may not realize it, but acid reflux can be extremely damaging to the enamel of your teeth. What exactly is happening to your body during an acid reflux episode, how does it damage your teeth, and how can you avoid acid reflux?
In’s and Out’s of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can be caused by a malfunction in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which serves as the entrance to the stomach. Normally the LES closes right after food passes through it, but if it does not close all the way or opens too often, stomach acid can rise up the esophagus causing discomfort. Another common cause of acid reflux is a hiatal hernia which occurs when the LES and the upper part of the stomach move above the esophagus, allowing stomach acid to pass up into the esophagus.
Acid and Your Teeth
We know that acidic foods and drinks can erode your teeth’s enamel, which is why even sugar free drinks, such as sparkling water, can damage your teeth. Even tooth decay, while caused by Streptococcus mutans, is technically a result of the lactic acid which is a by product of the bacteria digesting glucose and starch in the mouth.
pH is a measurement of the acidity or basicity of a given material on a scale of 0-14. The lower the pH, the more acidic the chemical. Sparkling water has a pH of around 3 or 4, lactic acid has a pH of 2.4, and stomach acid has a pH of only 2. Dental enamel begins to dissolve at a pH of 5.5. In other words, acid reflux can do a number on your enamel, but luckily there are a few things that you can do to protect your teeth from acid reflux.
Protect Your Enamel
Acid reflux is typically triggered after eating, especially if it is a big meal or if you ate a lot of spicy foods. It’s best to avoid overeating if you are prone to acid reflux episodes. You should also avoid tomatoes, citrus, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, and fatty foods. Eating right before bed should also be avoided.
If you do experience an acid reflux flare up you should wait to brush your teeth until about an hour afterwards because you can actually scrape away the softened enamel with your brush. With that being said, you should rinse your mouth out with water immediately after a flare up to wash away any stomach acid that may be on your teeth.
While acid reflux can be managed at home, eroded enamel is something that is best left to a dentist. If you notice that your teeth are discolored and whitening is not helping then it is highly likely that the enamel of your teeth is worn down. Dr. Matthews at Dan Matthews, DDS can help size you for natural looking dental crowns or porcelain veneers and restore that beautiful smile. If you live in the Austin area, please give us a call at 512-452-2273 to schedule an appointment today.