Studies indicate that more than more than 60 million adults experience symptoms of acid reflux each month and about that approximately 20% of people with acid reflux will develop gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
When stomach acid backs up (refluxes), it can affect the teeth, eroding the hard, outer layer of enamel and weakening teeth. These weakened teeth have appearance changes, can become sensitive, pitted with microcracks, cusped on the edges and flattened on the chewing surface areas, and be susceptible to cavities.
Although the risk for GERD increases significantly for those over the age of 40, even babies and children can have it. Heartburn, acid regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing are common symptoms and chronic heartburn, sometimes called acid indigestion, is the most common symptom.
To understand acid reflux, it’s important to know a little about what causes it. To aid in the digestion of food, the stomach produces hydrochloric acid. There is a ring of muscle in the esophagus that is meant to prevent the reflux of stomach acid.
However, there are a number of factors that can contribute to the weakening of this ring of muscle and increase the backing up of corrosive acid in the esophagus. Among these are items such as the use of alcohol or tobacco, certain medical conditions, or diets that include fatty, spicy, or acidic foods, chocolate, caffeine, or mint flavorings. Additionally, eating large meals, eating just before bedtime, and poor posture can all contribute to symptoms.
Moreover, because saliva plays an important part in neutralizing the acid refluxing from the stomach and reducing its erosive effect on teeth, certain medications that reduce salivary function can contribute to dental problems.
It’s vital for those experiencing symptoms of acid reflux to seek medical advice if lifestyle changes don’t alleviate symptoms. If left untreated, acid reflux can have a significant impact on oral health and can also increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
A dentist can advise if tooth enamel has been affected by acid and can offer remineralization therapy to help protect teeth. The earliest identification and alleviation of symptoms provides the best opportunities for both oral and esophageal protection from damage.
If would like more information about acid reflux and protection against its dental risks, Dr. Heidi Finkelstein and her caring staff at My Plantation Dentist can help. To schedule your appointment, please contact us today at 954-584-1030.
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