Acid reflux is a common condition, but not everyone is aware that it can affect your teeth. The stomach contains extremely strong acids as these are necessary for digestion. During an attack the acids from the stomach travels up the oesophagus and into the mouth.
The proper name for acid reflux is gastroesophageal reflux disease and it is caused by the small muscle at the base of the oesophagus functioning incorrectly. This muscle is called the lower oesophageal sphincter and when it is functioning properly it prevents the stomach juices from coming up into the mouth. If this muscle inadvertently relaxes and opens up at the wrong times then the stomach acids will rise up from the stomach, into the oesophagus and up into the mouth.
Some people are unaware they even have this condition as it can be completely painless and can present very few symptoms. One sign that it may be happening is noticing a sour taste in your mouth. It could be that the first time it is diagnosed is when you visit Leeds City Dentalcare for a check-up, as if it’s been happening for quite some time you may have signs of dental erosion.
What is Dental Erosion?
Dental erosion is where the enamel layer on the outer surface of the teeth becomes damaged by acids. A clean and healthy mouth normally has a fairly neutral pH level and only becomes acidic after you have eaten. When the pH levels become more acidic then this has the effect of removing essential ions such as calcium and phosphate from the tooth enamel. The end result is that the tooth enamel becomes softer and more vulnerable towards decay.
Signs that this may be happening include noticing:
- Increased sensitivity towards certain foods and food temperatures
- Discolouration as the teeth may appear yellower due to the tooth enamel becoming thinner and exposing more of the dentine layer underneath
- Teeth look more irregular and may even appear to be cracked or chipped as the enamel erodes
- Small indentations or pitting on the surfaces of the teeth
If Dr David Brown or another of our dentists notices signs of acid erosion in your teeth then they will suggest various methods of combating this problem. Using fluoride toothpaste will help to strengthen your teeth, and you should just spit out the excess after brushing rather than rinsing your mouth with water as this will enable some of the fluoride ions to remain in the saliva little longer, prolonging the protective effect. It may also pay to use fluoride mouthwash to help prevent this erosion becoming any worse. If the dental erosion is already quite significant then it could be necessary to bond the tooth with composite resin to help protect it from further damage. Occasionally it might even be necessary to crown the affected tooth to protect it against decay.
Helping to Prevent the Symptoms of Acid Reflux
It will also help tremendously if you manage to get your acid reflux under control, and some people manage to do this by making adjustments to their diet and lifestyle. It could be that the symptoms are triggered by particular foods including fatty foods, creamy foods, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol, and avoiding these products may help lessen the symptoms. Some people also find it helpful to avoid eating big meals, and to eat several small meals throughout the day instead. It’s also worth contacting your dentist in Leeds for help and advice as they may be able to prescribe medications, or could even recommend surgery.