Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the muscle at the end of your esophagus—the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach—randomly opens for a period of time or does not shut properly. Contents in your stomach, including highly acidic digestive juices, can leak back up into your esophagus, resulting in a burning sensation in your chest or throat known as heartburn. You may also taste stomach fluid in the back of your mouth, which is called acid indigestion. GERD occurs when you experience any of these symptoms more than twice a week.
Eventually, GERD can cause a slew of health issues, including ulcers and esophageal cancer. It can also cause dental problems. In fact, dentists are often the first health care professional to identify GERD in patients because one major sign of the disease is dental erosion, or dissolving of tooth surfaces. Dental erosion occurs because the acidic juices in the stomach come into contact with the mouth and, over time, break down your teeth.
A gastroenterologist can diagnose and help treat the condition. In addition, here’s what you can do to protect your teeth:
Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after a reflux episode. Brushing may damage enamel that has already been weakened by acid.
Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing gum stimulates saliva flow, which reduces acid in your mouth.
To reduce the risk of demineralization of your teeth, ask your dentist about mouth rinses and toothpastes containing fluoride.
To dilute the acid in your mouth, rinse vigorously with water.
Rinsing with baking soda in water will neutralize the acid.
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