GERD can cause dental erosion over time. You can prevent it from worsening by treating GERD and taking steps to reduce the effects of stomach acid on your teeth.
Gastroesophageal reflux — aka acid reflux — happens when stomach acids rise up into your esophagus. It can cause uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn and a bad taste in your mouth.
Over time, acid reflux can damage your esophagus and upper respiratory tract. When symptoms continue and lead to more serious complications, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Dental erosion is one complication of GERD. This can lead to pain, sensitivity, and irreversible tooth damage. Keep reading to learn how this happens and what you can do to prevent it.
Acidic beverages, medications that contain acid, excessive vomiting, and acid reflux can all cause erosion. Dry mouth can also raise your chances of experiencing dental erosion since there isn’t enough saliva to wash away the acid.
Your saliva can help minimize the wear of stomach acids on your teeth. But in the case of GERD, too much acid comes back up into your mouth over a long time for saliva to neutralize it all.
This issue is especially bad at night when you don’t swallow as much or make as much saliva. Because you’re lying down, acid can stay in your mouth for a long time and continue to wear on your teeth.
Dental erosion can eventually lead to changes in your teeth. You might feel pain or sensitivity. You may also notice color or texture changes.
If you develop dental erosion, you may also notice:
- hot, cold, or sweet beverages cause pain or tenderness
- teeth look yellow, chalky, or have pits
- teeth are sharp-edged, silky, or glossy
- fillings become easier to see
Dental erosion from GERD cannot be reversed, but your dentist might be able to do restorative work on your teeth.
Depending on the site and extent of damage, options to repair your teeth might include:
To help reduce sensitivity, a dentist might also recommend a fluoride gel to strengthen tooth enamel. You can also use a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
You can reduce your risk of further dental erosion by taking steps to reduce the effect of acid reflux on your teeth. You can also consult a doctor about treating GERD or consider lifestyle changes to manage the condition.
Consider the following tips for reducing acid:
- Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva.
- Drink water while eating, or rinse your mouth with water after eating.
- Consider fluoride and desensitizing toothpaste.
A dentist may also recommend prescription fluoride, which is much stronger than over-the-counter fluoride products.
The following may also help you manage GERD:
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and any foods that trigger your symptoms.
- Try not to eat within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Elevate your head during sleep.
Medications such as over-the-counter antacids can help relieve mild GERD symptoms, but they’re not for everyday use. A doctor can also prescribe medications to help manage your GERD.
Here are answers to common questions about acid reflux, GERD, and your teeth.
Can a dentist tell if you have acid reflux?
A dentist can identify dental erosion from symptoms such as sensitivity and changes in your tooth enamel.
Dentists can take a health history to identify the cause of erosion, which might be acid reflux, consumption of acidic beverages, or another cause.
Can a dentist treat GERD?
A dentist can recommend ways to reduce the effect of acid on your teeth but they cannot prescribe GERD medications.
You will want to see a primary care doctor for GERD treatments, including prescription medications or surgery. Left untreated, GERD can cause complications that affect your respiratory system and the health of your esophagus.
Can a tooth infection cause acid reflux?
An abscess is when bacteria enter the soft tissue of a tooth and form a pocket filled with pus. Dentists can treat a tooth abscess.
Is mouthwash good for acid reflux?
Dentists recommend rinsing with plain water, milk, or a baking soda rinse to manage acid on teeth, in particular after vomiting.
Since mouthwashes vary in their ingredients, some of which might be acidic, you may want to ask a dentist which mouthwashes are safe and effective for acid reflux.
GERD can lead to dental erosion, the wearing away of tooth enamel. While dental erosion from GERD is permanent, you can take steps to increase your saliva, rinse acids with water, and manage your GERD overall. This way, you can prevent acid from doing further damage to your teeth.
If you have dental symptoms because of erosion, a dentist can perform restorative work to make your teeth look and feel better. Over-the-counter products like desensitizing toothpaste may also help reduce pain.