When you experience that familiar burning sensation in your chest and throat from acid reflux, your first inclination may be to reach for your bottle of antacids. While doing so might help calm the burn, you may want to consider drinking water first to help dilute the irritating stomach acid in your esophagus that can travel up into your mouth, causing problems. Acid reflux disease causes heartburn, and if not properly managed, can lead to problems with your teeth and gums. Here are three ways acid reflux disease can damage your oral cavity, and what you can do about them:

Tooth Erosion

While tooth erosion is commonly related to acidic foods and drinks, it can also develop as a result of stomach acid making contact with tooth enamel. When this occurs, you may notice that your teeth are more sensitive to sweets and hot or cold drinks, and you may also discover that your teeth take on a translucent appearance.

Your dentist can recommend a special toothpaste or oral rinse that can help keep your tooth enamel healthy and slow the progression of erosion. While dental intervention is important, you'll need to take steps to minimize your acid reflux symptoms such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding food triggers such as chocolate, coffee, spicy foods, and peppermint, and not smoking. 


Acid reflux may also heighten the risk for periodontitis, which is a severe gum infection that can damage the bones that support your teeth and the soft tissues surrounding them. While periodontitis is commonly linked to poor oral hygiene, caustic gastric acid may also be linked to this gum condition. When stomach acid makes contact with your gums and other structures in your mouth, it can impair the integrity of soft tissue.

This can allow pathogens to invade the gums and cause a serious infection. If your gums are red, inflamed, are painful, bleed, or if they start draining a purulent discharge, see your dentist, who will prescribe a course of antibiotics to clear the infection. Antibiotics will also help prevent tissue damage and bone loss related to periodontal disease. After your infection has cleared, talk to your physician about taking acid blocking medications to help prevent further episodes of reflux so that your mouth stays healthy. 


You may also be more likely to develop dental cavities when you have poorly managed or chronic acid reflux. Because gastric acid can cause tooth erosion and enamel damage, bacteria is more likely to find its way inside your tooth to cause dental decay.

Good oral hygiene can help prevent the development of carious teeth related to dental erosion, as can drinking plenty of water to help dilute stomach acid and wash away the oral pathogens that are responsible for causing cavities. 

If you have acid reflux disease and develop any of the above conditions, see your physician and dentist. The sooner both conditions are recognized and treated, the less likely you are to develop inflammation of your upper digestive tract and damage to your oral cavity.