From the Dentist: How Acid Reflux Can Influence Your Teeth

Posted on: December 5, 2014

DentistAs a dentist, we understand how damaging acid reflux can be for your teeth. This is a common health condition that impacts millions of Americans.  While the primary symptoms are discomfort similar to heart burn along with a burning sensation in the chest and throat, acid reflux does negatively impact other areas of the body as well.  When left untreated and uncontrolled it can lead to problems with the esophagus, stomach, throat and teeth.  In fact, this is a leading cause of esophagus cancer. Many believe that the increase in this type of cancer is due to the rising number of people suffering from GERD.  According to a report published in January of 2008 by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, sixty percent of the U.S. adult population experience symptoms of GERD or acid reflux at least once during the year, with twenty to thirty percent experiencing the weekly.  The prevalence of the disease is increasing as demonstrated by a 216 percent increase in hospitalization stays for GERD from 1998 to 2005.

In our office, we are focused on keeping our patients in good oral health. While acid reflux primarily impacts the digestive system, as the acid travels up through the esophagus it can start to attack the teeth.  As it does, the acid will start to wear away the teeth one layer at a time.  As a result, reflux-induced erosion takes place and the protective layer of enamel that surrounds your teeth, disappears.  This can lead to extreme tooth sensitivity as the dentin underneath the enamel is exposed.  Dentin is porous and contains the nerve endings for the tooth so when it is exposed anything that is eaten touches the nerve endings and sends a pain signal to the brain.

In advanced stages of erosion, the tooth structure starts to wear way.  As a dentist, we see patients that have holes in their teeth as a result.  In less extreme cases the teeth become thin and brittle, leaving them exposed to breakage and making it difficult to put pressure on them.  This makes eating challenging and creates overall discomfort.  We can address both mild and severe erosion in our dental office.

In the early stages, we can help to strengthen teeth by completing a fluoride treatment.  We can also perform a bonding procedure in order to seal in the dentin and decrease sensitivity.  If, however, more of the enamel has worn away, and bone loss has occurred, we will need to use a dental crown in order to restore and protect the tooth.  A crown can be made of ceramic or silver amalgam and placed on any of your teeth.  Once there, it surrounds the tooth entirely so that nothing can touch it. This enables the patient to keep their natural teeth for longer, even if they are damaged.

As a dentist, we recommend that our patients try to keep their acid reflux under control by taking doctor prescribed medication and adjusting their diet accordingly.  This will help to reduce the amount of acid coming up from the stomach and decrease the risk of reflux-induced erosion.

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