How Acid Reflux Can Affect Your Oral Health
Almost everyone experiences heartburn now and then. But if you’re suffering from this condition two or more times a week, you may have acid reflux. This can progress to chronic acid reflux called gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. Acid reflux and GERD can cause damage to your entire oral cavity including your mouth and teeth, in addition to your esophagus, throat and larynx. Here’s what you need to know and some tips to help you manage the effect of acid reflux.
Acid Reflux and Your Teeth
Constant exposure to the acid from the stomach can damage the outer surface of the teeth known as the enamel. In many cases, people are unaware of the damage the reflux is doing until the destruction has reached an advanced stage.
As the acid continues to invade the oral cavity, the tooth enamel begins to dissolve. If it continues dissolving, the underlying tissue, called dentin, may be exposed. If this happens, it can lead to:
- Teeth weakening and being prone to chipping.
- Sensitive teeth.
- Need for extensive restorations like fillings, crowns, and bridge work.
- Unsightly teeth.
- Increased decay.
There are instances of “silent GERD” where a person does not have any symptoms of heartburn, but the acid is still damaging the teeth. Dentists are often the ones who diagnose silent GERD when they are faced with already damaged teeth in need of repair.
Ways to Control and Treat Damaged to Your Teeth from Acid Reflux
Dentists recommend that those who have teeth damage due to acid reflux consider some of the following treatments:
- Brush twice a day with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste designed for dentin sensitivity. Dentin is the layer of the tooth directly under the enamel and gets damaged when the enamel layer of protection is eroded. Using a soft bristled toothbrush is better for your teeth to avoid further irritation of dentin that may be close to the tooth surface.
- If teeth are sensitive, use desensitizing agents. These are available over the counter and through your dentist. At the dentist's office, the desensitizing agent is applied directly to the teeth and helps decrease the ability of the nerve fibers in the dental pulp to recognize pain. This is often done in conjunction with a tooth-whitening treatment. At home, the use of toothpastes designed for sensitive teeth, like Sensoydne for example, have desensitizing agents that can reduce tooth pain caused by acid reflux.
- Fluoride treatments in the dentist’s office to help protect the enamel that you have left on your the teeth to help avoid further damage.
- If teeth are damaged, wearing a tooth night guard at night may prevent additional damage.
- If teeth are exposed to acid due to something you ate or drank, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing. This is true whether the acid is from food, a beverage, or from acid reflux.
- Use a sugar-free antacid after a reflux episode. You can find sugar-free Tums and other similar products at the grocery store or pharmacy.
- Avoid anything that is mint-flavored including lozenges, gum, antacids, or toothpaste. Although mint is used in many toothpastes, even those that don’t advertise they are mint-flavored, there are quite a few mint-free toothpastes on the market, for example Redmond Earthpaste and Crest Complete Liquid Gel. The reason for avoiding mint is that it relaxes the sphincter muscle between which can result in more acid reflux.
Acid Reflux and Your Esophagus and Throat
Acid reflux and more serious GERD must be treated to reduce the pain in the esophagus and prevent further uncomfortable symptoms. If exposure continues untreated, esophagitis may develop. Esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus. In addition to pain, this can cause difficulty in swallowing and regurgitation of food.
The acid reflux can further damage your throat. In rare cases, it can even increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Acid Reflux Laryngitis: Damage to Your Voice Box
According to Healthline, frequent heartburn or GERD may also damage the upper throat. Acid reflux laryngitis is a voice disorder caused by the irritation and swelling of the vocal cords when there is a backflow of the stomach acids into the throat.
This happens when the stomach acid finds its way into the back of the throat or nasal airway. Acid reflux laryngitis is also called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).
LPR does not always present symptoms so it silently begins causing throat or voice damage, which is why it is sometimes called “silent reflux.” If you have acid reflux or GERD, you should be checked for LPR. Some symptoms of LPR include:
- Chronic cough.
- Constant feeling like your throat is raw or like you have a lump in your throat.
- Feeling like your throat is burning.
- Chronic clearing of your throat.
- Hoarseness. It is worse in the morning or after eating.
- Low pitched voice.
- Choking episodes.
- Excessive mucus.
- Bitter/sour taste in the mouth.
- Voice problems (particularly in those who use their voice professionally or who are professional singers).
Medical and Surgical Options for Treating Acid Reflux
The most effective way to prevent further damage to the teeth, throat and esophagus is to treat GERD with a medical procedure that keeps acid from coming back up the throat and into the mouth.
There are several medical and surgical options to repair the cause of your acid reflux that Dr. Howard performs for patients in the greater Houston area.
- Laparoscopic Acid Reflux Surgery. This reinforces the sphincter at the lower end of the esophagus.
- Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF). This is an advanced endoscopic procedure that reconstructs the antireflux valve between the stomach and the esophagus.
- LINX System. This is a minimally invasive procedure that puts magnets around the opening of the stomach.
- Laparoscopic Hiatal Hernia Repair. If you have a hiatal hernia that is causing your acid reflux, there are several different ways in which you can have this condition repaired.
If you are experiencing dental problems or other throat or voice issues that could be caused by GERD, schedule an appointment with Dr. Howard for a consultation. He can explain to you the various approaches that may repair the problems that are causing your acid reflux and answer all of your questions. The office is in The Woodlands and serves patients in the Greater Houston area and throughout all of Texas.
Categories: Acid Reflux & GERD