Expert Q&A

Can acid reflux damage teeth?

Can acid reflux damage teeth?

Yes, it can. When you hear about acid reflux, you probably think about stomach acid backing up into the esophagus and causing heartburn. But in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid can sometimes flow all the way up to the mouth. When this happens, “acid can bathe the teeth and cause erosion of [dental] enamel,” explains Dr. Barbara J. Steinberg, a dentist and clinical professor at the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. This isn’t much of an issue if you have occasional heartburn, but “anyone who has GERD should be concerned about this,” says Steinberg. Dental erosion from acid reflux can lead to tooth discoloration, a noticeable thinning of the enamel and increased sensitivity in the teeth. If the erosion progresses, it can harm the nerves and blood vessels beneath the teeth, which could require root canal therapy. 

To prevent damage to your teeth from acid reflux, talk to your doctor about reflux medications and lifestyle modifications, such as elevating the head of your bed to prevent acid reflux while you sleep. It’s also essential to practice stellar oral hygiene -- brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing daily, using a fluoride mouth-rinse, having frequent dental checkups and possibly other measures as recommended by your dentist. 

This Live Right Live Well Ask the Expert was written by journalist Stacey Colino.

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