Can dental cavities occur due to acid reflux?

Have you heard of acid reflux? It is fairly common today among children and adults. But what exactly is it? The food pipe (esophagus) carries food from your mouth to your stomach. The muscle at the end of the esophagus opens during swallowing to allow food to pass and then  closes to prevent food from going back. When this muscle randomly opens up or does not shut properly, the acidic contents of the stomach, including highly acidic digestive juices, gush back into the food pipe, resulting in a burning sensation in the chest or throat known as heartburn. When these symptoms are experienced often, the patients is said to be suffering from acid reflux. The incidence of this condition increases markedly after the age of 40. Not just adults are affected; even infants and children can have acid reflux.

But what does acid reflux have to do with teeth? The refluxed acidic content of the stomach leads to loss of the enamel of the tooth resulting in tooth erosions, decay and hypersensitivity. Did you ever guess that your teeth were getting decayed and worn out due to acid reflux? The condition can cause a dry mouth, which increases the bacterial count in the mouth and can lead to an increase in tooth decay.

What are the signs and symptoms of acid reflux?

  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Non cardiac chest pain
  • Acidic taste in the mouth
  • Belching
  • Unpleasant odor in the mouth
  • Tooth Erosion

A gastroenterologist can diagnose and help treat the condition.  To prevent tooth surface loss, few precautions that can be taken are:

  • Refrain from brushing your teeth immediately after a reflux episode. Brushing may damage enamel that has already been weakened by acid.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva and reduces acid content in the mouth.
  • The dental surgeon would prescribe mouth rinses and toothpastes containing fluoride to make the teeth resistant to demineralization.
  • Refrain from drinking carbonated drinks.

Unexplained tooth surface loss can indicate the possibility of acid reflux and medical and dental management of this reflux disease is necessary. With proper medications, the condition can be treated, but relapses are occur. Regularly scheduled dental and medical appointments will help reduce the episodes of reflux and allow you to live a reflux free comfortable life!

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