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Understanding How GERD Can Affect Your Oral Health

Feb 08, 2024

Understanding How GERD Can Affect Your Oral Health

You may be surprised to learn that your digestive system directly impacts your oral health. Symptoms of GERD (chronic acid reflux) can damage your teeth. Learn more about how GERD can affect your oral health and what you can do to protect your smile.

Over 20 million people in the United States deal with occasional acid reflux, though when it happens more frequently, you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. It’s a common stomach condition, but you may be surprised to learn that your digestive system directly impacts your oral health.

Sheena Vaswani, DDS, and the team at Los Altos Family Smiles understand the impact that GERD has on your teeth. We provide customized treatments to reduce the impact of the condition on your oral health. Let’s learn more about GERD and the effects it has on your teeth.

What is GERD?

When stomach acid backwashes into your esophagus, you’re left with an uncomfortable burning sensation called acid reflux. GERD occurs when the muscle that holds your stomach contents in your stomach weakens or malfunctions, causing frequent acid reflux episodes.

When an occasional fit of heartburn becomes more frequent, you may be developing GERD. Look for these signs and symptoms:

  • Heartburn episodes two or more times per week
  • Regurgitating food and/or bile
  • Difficulty swallowing, or the sensation of something stuck in your throat
  • Chest pain, tightness, or wheezing, particularly when lying down

GERD is generally controlled with anti-reflux medication.

How does GERD affect my teeth?

Gastric acid is strong, with the power to break down food in your stomach. It’s not meant to make contact with your teeth and gum tissue. Under normal circumstances, your saliva is enough to wash away any acid that occasionally makes its way into your mouth.

With GERD, stomach acid enters your mouth in a quantity greater than your saliva can dilute. This could be several times during the day and even more often at night. This acid contact erodes tooth enamel, including the inner surfaces of teeth where you can’t brush effectively.

Dental erosion leads to teeth that become sensitive, discolored, and more prone to cavities. Once your enamel wears away, it’s gone for good, though we offer cosmetic dentistry treatments as an option to protect and restore your teeth from additional damage.

How can I protect my teeth?

Healthy saliva production is key to keeping your mouth pH neutral to avoid acid erosion. Try the following tips to maintain saliva production and reduce the impact of acid reflux episodes:

  • Chew sugar-free gum to help the body produce more saliva
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Rinse your mouth with water after you eat
  • Use a fluoride rinse and/or toothpaste that promotes enamel care
  • Refrain from alcohol and tobacco use
  • Avoid eating within three hours before going to bed, reducing the risk of acid reflux

Regular exams allow us to catch any dental erosion before it becomes a problem. We may recommend prescription-strength fluoride treatments or medication to fight dry mouth.

Our dentists are here to protect your oral health from the effects of GERD. Make an appointment, by phone or online, with Los Altos Family Smiles today.