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The Link Between Heartburn and Oral Health

Home/The Link Between Heartburn and Oral Health

Acid indigestion, more commonly known as heartburn, is that burning sensation that results from gastric acid from the stomach being regurgitated into the esophagus. Sometimes it can happen after overeating, but in most cases it is a symptom of a larger problem, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

It’s easy to write off heartburn as a minor problem, but did you know that among other serious complications, it can negatively impact your oral health?

Man with symptoms of heartburn

Heartburn Can Damage Your Teeth

It doesn’t usually surprise people to learn that the repeated presence of gastric acid in the esophagus can cause damage to those tissues–you feel that pain. But it may surprise you to learn that the stray gastric acid can even travel as far as your mouth, measurably raising the pH of your saliva.

Unfortunately, your dental enamel is not designed to resist your highly acidic stomach fluids. When saliva becomes too acidic, it can start to dissolve your enamel, leading to something called dental erosion.

At first, you might notice dental erosion by noticing an increased sensitivity to sweet foods or to heat. As it progresses, dental erosion becomes visible in the form of discoloration, indentations, and cracks or chips on the surface of teeth.

Worst of all, some people experience acid indigestion without the noticeable feeling of heartburn. This is sometimes called “silent reflux,” and it means that your esophagus and teeth could be suffering the effects of that heightened pH without your knowledge. It’s not unusual in these cases for your dentist to be the first to guess that you’re suffering from GERD.

What Can You Do About It?

Enamel may be strong, but it can’t grow back once it’s damaged. Once gastric acid has exposed your teeth by stripping away their protective coating, your teeth will become permanently more prone to decay. Reconstructive dentistry may be necessary to protect your teeth from further damage and future cavities.

If you think you might have GERD, it’s imperative that you speak with your dentist about it. Even if your dentist may already be seeing the results on your teeth, knowledge of your overall health can help them more effectively treat you and prevent further damage to your tooth enamel. And it’s important that your dentist knows the source of your erosion so they can give appropriate advice on how to address it.  Regular cleanings can ensure that you are doing everything you can to protect your teeth from the increased risk of decay that accompanies GERD.

You can also make some changes to your lifestyle and habits to reduce the symptoms associated with GERD. For example, break down large meals into smaller, more frequent meals. Some foods can trigger acid indigestion, such as tomato, citrus, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, or spicy foods. Losing weight can also make a huge difference — some evidence shows that weight gain of just five to ten kilos can make you three times more likely to experience heartburn.

It’s easy to think of oral health as separate from overall health, but your oral health has just as much of an impact as any other area of the body. That’s why it’s important to see a dentist who sees your oral health as part of the bigger picture of health.

Looking for an experienced dentist in Baulkham Hills? Call (02) 9686 7375 or contact us online to make an appointment.

By |April 12th, 2017|Health|