Acid reflux effects about 20 percent of the U.S. population. However, many people who suffer from acid reflux don’t know they have it, and even fewer are aware that it can erode tooth enamel and wear down tooth structure. To make matters worse, acid reflux is often misdiagnosed for teeth grinding, resulting in improper treatment.
At first glance, it may appear that a patient with enamel erosion on the molars or backs of the teeth is a tooth grinder. But if the patient is treated for grinding and the cause of erosion is actually acid reflux, the problem is going to keep coming back.
Such was the case with one of my patients. After seeing several dentists who refused to work on her because they thought she was a bad tooth grinder, she came to me for help. I diagnosed her with acid reflux, which was confirmed and treated by a physician.
I was able to arrive at the acid reflux diagnosis because tooth enamel loss from grinding usually wears the teeth out in very flat patterns, while erosion from acid reflux tends to create worn craters in the teeth. Once the acid reflux was treated, we were able to address the tooth wear with veneers, and she has not experienced any problems since.
If acid reflux is causing the erosion, I recommend my patients seek help from a medical professional and treat the reflux problem first.
Patients with acid reflux can help prevent further tooth erosion by giving up acidic foods, including fruit juices, lemonades, sweet teas, sodas and energy drinks. They should also avoid candies that are in the mouth frequently or for extended periods of time.
I also tell my patients to avoid brushing their teeth for 60 minutes after reflux episodes and instead rinse their mouths with baking soda or mouthwash. The enamel is softened following an acid reflux attack, and brushing will increase the rate of enamel destruction.
Unfortunately, enamel does not regenerate. The only way to correct tooth erosion due to acid reflux is to replace the lost enamel with porcelain or resin. This will depend on the amount lost. If the loss is approaching one millimeter or more, porcelain veneers or crowns are the best option.
If you have acid reflux and want to avoid loss of tooth enamel, call us at (813) 689-4226 to schedule an appointment.