Is Heartburn Ruining Your Teeth?

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux or GERD affects over 7 million people according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The condition is caused by a leakage of stomach acid  through the esophagus into the mouth.  These highly acidic stomach acids are strong enough to cause tooth enamel erosion over time. When tooth enamel is lost, a tooth is exposed and become decayed. For the technical people, stomach acid has a pH of 2.0 and enamel starts to erode at a pH of 5.5.  (on a scale of 0-14, the lower the number, the more acidic a substance is).

Most people associate acid reflux with a burning sensation in the throat and mouth.  However, many acid reflux sufferers experience no symptoms at all.  This does not mean that acid is not present in the mouth. It just is not felt.  This condition is often referred to as Silent GERD. Silent GERD negatively impacts your teeth just as symptomatic acid reflux. Your dentist can tell if you have non-symptomatic acid reflux induced enamel erosion.

What can you do to avoid enamel erosion?  Avoid foods that cause acid reflux including spicy, fatty, fried foods, citric fruits, and some dairy products. Tell your dentist that you experience acid reflux. Other things you can do are:
•    Rinse your mouth with water after you experience acid reflux
•    Consume sugar-free antacid and let it dissolve in your mouth
•    Chew xylitol or sugarless gums, lozenges or candies

If you acid reflux continues to persist, see your doctor that specializes in treating acid reflux.  There is a general perception that acid reflux is caused by a leaky esophagus sphincter. The latest research shows that acid reflux is usually caused by weak stomach acid. Because the acid is too weak to digest, it overproduces volumes of acid causing the stomach to overflow with acid.