Acid reflux is when stomach acid comes back up into the esophagus, throat or mouth. It can be especially hard on your teeth. The enamel (or protective layer of your teeth) begins to erode away when it is exposed to an acid of a pH of 5.5 or less. Stomach acid has a pH of 2 or less, which makes getting your acid reflux under control a priority. Some signs you may be suffering from acid reflux are:
- Sharp or burning chest pain behind the breastbone
- Tightness in your chest or upper abdomen
- A recurring bitter or sour taste in your mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hoarseness, especially in the morning
- Sore throat
- Coughing, wheezing or continually needing to clear your throat
There are ways to prevent acid reflux and protect your teeth.
- Elevate the head of your bed, at least 6 inches
- Avoid foods that cause the esophageal sphincter to relax during digestion. (These include: coffee, chocolate, fatty foods, whole milk, peppermint & spearmint)
- Limit acidic foods
- Avoid carbonated beverages (Burbs force the esophageal sphincter open)
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals
- Do not eat 3-4 hours before bed
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid drinking alcohol (It relaxes the esophageal sphincter)
- Loose weight (Extra weight can prevent the esophageal sphincter from closing)
- Avoid wearing tight fitting garments
- Use lozenges or gum to keep producing saliva (Dr. Bomstad warns constant use of lozenges or gum can produce cavities. Always us sugar-free products and purchase a non-peppermint/non-spearmint gum with XYLITOL.
There are several over-the-counter products you can try if you are suffering from acid reflux.
- Mylanta (buffers/neutralizes acid)
- Maalox (buffers/neutralizes acid)
- Tums (buffers/neutralizes acid)
- Rolaids (buffers/neutralizes acid)
- Gaviscon (buffers/neutralizes acid)
- Pepcid AC (causes stomach to make less acid)
- Tagamet HB (causes stomach to make less acid)
- Zantac 75 (causes stomach to make less acid)
Hesitation in treating your acid reflux can cause damage to your teeth and body alike. If you have made all of these changes, tried over-the-counter medications and are still struggling with acid reflux it is time to see your primary doctor.
Even if you don’t suffer from reflux it’s important to pay attention to what you are consuming. Lemon juice & vinegar have a pH of 2, orange juice & soda have a pH of 3, tomato juice has a pH of 4, and coffee & bananas have a pH of 5. All of them are capable of eroding your teeth and can do as much damage as acid reflux. It is extremely important to brush your teeth after consuming acidic products. If you don’t have the ability to brush your teeth, you should rinse your mouth with water (a happy pH of 7!).