Acid Reflux Ruins Teeth!

Do you have acid reflux? If so, did you know that acid reflux can damage your teeth? I was unaware of the impact until someone mentioned their refulx and bad teeth. I thought i was worthy of more research (read below). If you have reflux, ensure you tell your dentist so he or she can take appropriate action.

Dental enamel is attacked by the acid in the reflux. Dental erosion involves the loss of enamel by a chemical process that does not involve bacteria (such as occurs in typical teeth cavities). If you have reflux, rinse your mouth with water only. Don't brush your teeth straight after a reflux attack as the tooth brushing combined with the acid from the reflux increases enamel erosion!

Dr. Amaechi said some medications including aspirin, when taken regularly, have erosive potential. Some underlying medical conditions such as acid reflux disease or disorders associated with chronic vomiting, including bulimia, also can cause dental erosion because of the gastric acids that are regurgitated into the mouth.

“It is important for dental practitioners to identify dental erosion and its causes before it is too late,” Dr. Amaechi said. “Because dental erosion creates a smooth and shiny appearance of the enamel and causes no pain or sensitivity in its early stages, most patients are not aware that they are suffering from the condition until the problem becomes severe. Therefore, the responsibility of early detection and treatment falls on the professionals.” (Adapted from materials provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio)

Reflux Disease (GERD) Overview

GERD stands for GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease (say that fast 10x!:)). GERD is a condition in which countless people suffer and has not geographic boundries. How do you know you have it? The condition occurs when the esophagus becomes irritated from stomach acid backing up. What is the esophagus? The esophagus is the tube that stretches from throat to the stomach. Food travels down the esophagus to enter the stomach.

The stomach produces hydrochloric acid after you consume some food to held in the digestion process. A few important notes:

  • The stomach secretes large amounts of protective mucus to protect itself from the acid.
     
  • Unfortunately, the esophagus does not have any protective coating/mucus. The esophagus becomes damaged when acid backs-up.
     
  • The term heartburn was derived from the location of the esophagus. The esophagus sits behind hear and when acid enters the tube, people describe the sensation as burning. Hence the term hearburn:).

How does the body protect the esophagus from stomach acid? At the bottom of the esophagus is a small ring of muscle call the lower esphageal sphincter which typically prevents acid reflux. So how does acid reflux?

  • When you swallow, the sphincter relaxes to allow food to pass into the stomach. After the food passes, the sphincter tightens to prevent acid from flowing in the opposite direction.

  • Problems occur when the sphincter relaxes between swallows. When this happens, stomach acid pushes pass the sphincter and into the esophagus. People with this conidtion are labeled with GERD.

Who is impacted by GERD? Everyone! Adults, children, and infants can be impacted. GERD affects roughly 33% of the adult population to some extent at least once per month. In addition, almost 10% of adults experience GERD weekly or daily. What can you do if you have GERD? See a doctor to determine the severity. Most cases are relatively minor and can be treated with simple over the counter medications such as TUMS. You may also consider Proton Pump Inhibitos (also known as PPIs). PPIs are a different class of drugs that help to lower the amount of acid produced by the stomach. Omeprazole is a generic over the counter medicine that falls into this category.

 

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