Acid and Tooth Enamel Erosion
As tough as teeth are, they become vulnerable when acid levels in the mouth are too high. Acid erodes enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay. Acidic foods and drinks, and acid-producing bacteria in the mouth are prime culprits. Enamel erosion may also be due to other conditions such as bulimia, chronic gastritis related to alcoholism, or frequent vomiting related to pregnancy. Researchers have recently recognized another threat: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD causes the highly acidic contents of the stomach to back up into the esophagus, sometimes even into the mouth, where it can erode teeth. Anyone who suffers GERD is at risk. In a study of 117 patients with GERD, 28 had dental erosion. Another study of 20 patients found evidence in about half of the patients.
What you can do: Ask your doctor for support and referrals to treat bulimia or alcoholism. If you’re pregnant and vomiting a lot, it might be a good time for you to get a dental checkup (one is recommended during pregnancy).
If your dentist notices signs of enamel erosion and suspects that the problem may be GERD, she is likely to recommend you see your doctor. The only way to prevent further damage is to control your GERD. In addition to taking a prescription acid-blocker medicine, make some changes to what and when you eat to reduce the frequency of reflux. Start by avoiding foods that make GERD worse: chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee, and alcoholic beverages. Eating smaller meals helps prevent GERD. Also, don’t eat for at least two hours before bed so your stomach has time to partially empty before you lie down.