Most dentists will cite multiple causes of tooth decay: sugar, acidic foods, chewing ice, etc. However, one source of tooth erosion that many people don’t consider is acid reflux. Certain foods can cause acid reflux, or it may result from physiological issues, such as a weak lower esophageal sphincter (or LES, which is the muscle that closes the bottom of your esophagus).
Regular acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can lead to significant tooth erosion if left untreated. Often, it’s accompanied by heartburn, but in some cases, GERD may go unnoticed.
Acid and Enamel
In acid reflux, stomach acid refluxes up from the stomach into the esophagus. On occasion, it reaches the mouth. The pH level (acidity) of stomach fluid is enough to damage tooth and tissue alike.
The lower the pH, the more acidic a substance is. Tooth enamel will begin to dissolve at pH 5.5. Since stomach acid’s pH is 2.0, this means GERD has a high chance of damaging your teeth if it finds its way into your mouth.
Over time, tooth enamel erodes, making it more likely to fracture or suffer significant decay from bacteria. This can eventually lead to lost teeth. In addition, other oral health problems can result from the effect stomach fluids have on tissue.
Signs, Causes, and Treatments
Acid reflux is often accompanied by a burning sensation in your chest. You may also experience sore or dry throat, dyspepsia (stomach discomfort), bad breath, sense of having a lump in your throat, and regurgitation.
In some cases, medications can control acid reflux, but if you find yourself taking these medications regularly (even after removing acidic foods from your diet), there may be another issue at work. It’s possible that the LES in your esophagus is weak and allowing acid to surge upward. Some procedures, such as the LINX System, can reinforce the LES and end this problem.