Most people don’t think of acid reflux as a serious health problem but, for those who suffer from the condition or experience acid reflux side effects, it is not funny. Acid reflux can make life uncomfortable or take the fun out of eating, and it can also have negative effects on your dental health.
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid that is supposed to help in the digestive process moves back up into your food pipe instead. The most common symptoms include heartburn, frequent belching, nausea, food regurgitation, hiccups, discomfort in the upper abdomen, a dry cough, or a bitter taste in your mouth. If you experience these symptoms more than twice a week, your doctor may diagnose you with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD.
Acid reflux affects people of all ages but seems to increase as we age. Causes may include:
- Hiatal hernia
- Diminished levels of exercise
- Eating certain foods
- Increased medications
Lifestyle changes and medication can help treat acid reflux, but its symptoms should never be ignored.
How Acid Reflux Affects Overall Health and Dental Health
Apart from the constant feeling of discomfort, untreated acid reflux can lead to serious health complications. Stomach acid can damage your esophagus, mouth, and teeth. It can lead to inflammation or scars, which can cause food to become stuck in your throat. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to a serious complication called Barrett’s esophagus, which can be a precursor to cancer.
From a dental perspective, acid reflux side effects can also be quite substantial:
- Yellow Teeth: One noticeable side effect of acid reflux is that your teeth can turn yellow. They may also become more sensitive to temperature extremes, and could even become chipped, pitted, or cracked.
- Erosion of the Enamel: Because acid reflux is bringing acid up into your mouth, it can wear away at the protective enamel of your teeth. Without proper dental care, this could lead to cavities, dental abscesses, and infections in your mouth.
- Tooth Loss: It can affect current fillings, work its way around dental crowns and eventually cause enough damage that you could be in danger of losing some or all of your teeth.
- Gum Disease: Acid reflux can also cause damage to the healthy, pink gums in your mouth. The acid can erode your gums and loosen teeth, or lead to extensive periodontal disease. You might even lose some of your teeth if the protective gums are not strong enough to hold them in place. Periodontal disease can cause a dangerous infection that can spread to other parts of your body.
How to Treat Acid Reflux Side Effects
If you have minor side effects of acid reflux, you might find that rinsing your mouth with water after eating, rinsing with baking soda in water, or chewing sugar-free gum will be of help. Some over-the-counter and prescription medications can also reduce symptoms. Additionally, ask your dentist about toothpaste brands and mouth rinses that contain fluoride.
Of course, the best approach to good oral health is to schedule regular dental appointments so your dental professional can look for signs and symptoms of acid reflux. If your teeth are noticeably yellow, teeth whitening may be able to restore your smile. Teeth that have been damaged can be repaired with dental crowns or dental veneers.
Don’t let acid reflux damage your dental health. Dr. Hiren Patel and the dental professionals at First-In-Smiles Dentistry are devoted to comprehensive and preventative patient care. Set up your complimentary consultation today.