Posted on 17 August 2022
Once the enamel of your teeth starts to erode it isn’t reversible. Tooth enamel is tough, but when it wears away it impacts on your smile by increasing the risk from cavities and even tooth loss. One of the lesser appreciated causes of tooth erosion is acid reflux.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is caused by stomach acids entering the mouth. Acids are naturally produced in the stomach to assist with digestion. They can occasionally enter into the esophagus and up in to the mouth. In these instances, the saliva in our mouths will usually balance out the acids without any lasting impact.
However, for those with acid reflux, also called gastroesophagel reflux (GERD), the stomach acids coming up in to the mouth can be a frequent occurrence. This can negate the neutralising effect of saliva and create an imbalance of acids in the mouth.
Stomach acids are strong and corrosive. Therefore, the excess acids in the mouth can start to erode away the enamel on your teeth. The acid may soften the enamel, but it can also begin to dissolve it too. The problem can be magnified overnight, as less saliva is produced as you sleep.
Another point to be considered is the impact of some medications used to address GERD. These medications can lead to dry mouth, reducing the level of saliva in the mouth.
Saliva acts as a natural defense, helping maintain the balance of acids in the oral cavity -- while reducing the build-up of bacteria and plaque, by washing food particles from the teeth. Lower saliva production resulting from dry mouth can therefore increase your risk of cavities.
The Effects on Your Teeth
Tooth erosion can be gradual and may go unnoticed unless you maintain regular dental appointments. Your dentist will spot the signs of wear and tear on your tooth enamel, which could be a flattened, sharp or thin tooth. Other signs of tooth erosion include cupping on the tooth and cracked or chipped teeth.
A study looked at the effects of GERD by using an optical scanner. It involved 12 participants who experienced GERD and 6 who did not. All 18 participants were monitored over a six-month period. The result was that around half of the participants with GERD displayed levels of tooth enamel erosion several times higher than those without GERD.
Protecting Against Acid Reflux
There are a few ways to help protect yourself from the increased risk of cavities due to tooth erosion caused by acids in the mouth. Your dentist can advise you on these issues.
Regular appointments with your dentist is key to identifying any tooth enamel erosion issues before too much damage is done. Once your tooth enamel is worn away it is gone for good. However, even if this is the case there are still cosmetic dentistry options which can help restore your smile.
If your smile has been impacted by acid reflux, cosmetic dentistry can help restore your smile -- a boost to self-confidence.
You can discuss cosmetic dentistry with your dentist to see if you are a suitable candidate. The following are three common forms of cosmetic dentistry used to address problems arising from acid-induced tooth enamel erosion.
Ceramic or porcelain crowns are one of the primary solutions. They are made to fit over your tooth-- and tend to be the go-to option when the damage caused by enamel erosion is extensive.
By placing a dental crown over the damaged tooth, it restores the shape of the tooth, as well as protecting the tooth and restoring its overall function.
A dental crown helps return a natural look to your smile. However, you will need to have the underlying cause of your tooth erosion under control before having a crown fitted.
This includes any erosion resulting from GERD. If you are still suffering with excess acid in the mouth, you will continue to be vulnerable to tooth erosion and cavities after having a crown fitted.
Dental bonding involves a resin applied to repair and protect teeth damaged by acid. Dental bonding is a good option in repairing chips and cracks in your teeth. The beauty of the resin is it is colored to match your natural tooth colour. This provides a natural appearance to the tooth.
Once applied, the resin is dried using an ultraviolet light. This helps bond the resin to the enamel. Dental bonding can also be a good solution when erosion has led to the surface of a tooth being worn down, a condition known as cupping.
Veneers are a thin porcelain shell which fit over your tooth – looking like natural enamel. Veneers not only protect and restore the function of your teeth, they are custom-made to look natural too.
Veneers can rectify a multitude of issues caused by tooth erosion, from cupping and chips, to tooth sensitivity and discolouration. Once again though, you will need to have any GERD issues under control before having veneers fitted.
If your smile has been harmed by enamel erosion from acid reflux, your dentist is best placed to help. Through better protective measures and cosmetic dentistry if required, you can restore your smile after tooth enamel erosion.