Welcome back to Hartwell Dentistry. In this month’s blog we are discussing how acid reflux (GERD) can affect our teeth. Many patients are unaware that they even have this condition until they visit their dentist. So what do you need to know?

> What is acid reflux [GERD]?

Acid reflux can be felt through symptoms such as chest pain (heartburn) or regurgitation; sour or bitter taste, frequent need to clear your throat, feeling like you’re choking, chronic cough, hoarseness, trouble swallowing or recurrent sore throat.

Signs of acid reflux can be seen in your mouth, even before any other symptoms occur.

So how does acid reflux occur? There is a valve at the entrance of your stomach that closes as soon as food passes through it. Sometimes this valve does do not close properly and the acid that is produced in your stomach can move up your esophagus.

> How does GERD affect my teeth?

One of the first indications of acid reflux is the erosion of enamel on the biting surfaces of your molars and the tongue side of your teeth.

Why does this matter? Tooth enamel is the hardest part of our body. Enamel plays a very important role in protecting your teeth from decay. If your enamel erodes away it starts to expose the soft layer of your teeth (dentine). Once dentine has been exposed the erosion process accelerates leading to a significant increase in the risk of tooth sensitivity, decay and nerve damage.

> What can be done if my teeth are already damaged?

If you suffer from gastric reflux it is important the you visit your dentist regularly so that any damage caused by erosion of enamel can be prevented. There are specific toothpastes and mouth rinses can significantly reduce the risk of damage occurring. 

In cases where enamel has been lost, especially on the biting surfaces of your molars the best treatment is for the teeth to have a restoration placed. If there are only early signs of erosion the a small restoration / filling can make all the difference. For more extensive damage a ceramic crown may be indicated.

If you think you may have gastric reflux it is important the visit you doctor, treatment options can include both lifestyle changes and over the counter medication.