In our dental office, we help patients that suffer from acid reflux disease and are dealing with tooth erosion as a result. Reflux-induced erosion is a common problem that can impact both children and adults. As acid travels up through the esophagus, it enters the mouth and can start to attack the teeth. The acid will start to wear away the teeth one layer at a time until they become thin and brittle.
According to a report by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project between twenty and thirty percent of U.S. adults, experience the symptoms of acid reflux or GERD on a weekly basis. A full sixty percent of the population has these symptoms at least yearly. This manifests as a burning sensation in the chest and throat as acid works its way backwards and up the esophagus. This proves problematic for many people, making it difficult to eat and sleep along with interfering with their concentration at work. Acid reflux also creates health problems in the stomach, esophagus and throat in addition to impacting the teeth.
In our dental office, we want to know if our patients have acid reflux so that we can help to prevent erosion in addition to treating it. By keeping teeth healthy and clean, they will remain stronger. For example, people that have cavities or gum disease will naturally be more susceptible to getting cavities and suffering other dental health issues. While cleaning teeth, we can remove bacteria from the teeth and gum lines so that they can remain healthy and cavity free. We can also provide a fluoride treatment for teeth that need strengthening and are at risk for erosion. These preventative steps aid in keeping the mouth healthy.
If the erosion does occur, it will first attack the enamel and cause it to wear away. As it does, the dentin underneath will become exposed which leads to sensitive teeth. When food touches the dentin it is simultaneously touching the nerve endings inside of it. This can lead to the pain signal being transferred to the brain, leading to an increase in sensitivity that many patients complain of. In this early stage, we can help by completing a bonding procedure to seal the dentin. This works well in the beginning stages but as erosion becomes more advanced; the teeth will become weak, thin and brittle. At this point, the best way to protect the teeth is to place a crown around them. A crown is a cap that surrounds the tooth and prevents anything from touching it. This procedure allows us to save a tooth that may have otherwise been pulled due to erosion.
In our dental office, we also recommend that patients take medication to control their acid reflux. By seeing your doctor, you can get a prescription that will help you to feel better and to protect your teeth. If an attack does occur, you should avoid brushing your teeth for an hour, but be sure to rinse your mouth in order to neutralize some of the acid.