Can GERD cause Dry Mouth and Dental Problems?
GERD can affect your oral cavity in two major ways.
- Dry Mouth - usually due to the side effect of medications which are used to treat GERD. They are called proton pump inhibitors
- Cavities and toot erosion by creating an acidic environment in the mouth which can lead to irritation, candidiasis (thrush) and enamel erosion (wearing of teeth).
What is GERD?
GERD is an acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux. It is a long-term condition in which contents of the stomach (which are very acidic) rise up to the esophagus (the part of our body through which food passes from our mouth to our stomach) and even the oral cavity
Some of the GERD symptoms include:
- Acidic taste in the mouth
- Chest pain/breathing problems
- Acid taste in the mouth
- Tooth erosion
How is GERD managed?
GERD is managed through lifestyle changes as well as proper oral hygiene, medications and possible surgery. Speak to your doctor about what is recommended in your specific situation.
Some of the lifestyle changes include
Avoiding laying down three hours after sleeping.
It is during that 3 hour period after eating that out stomach are full and most active. When we lay down in that time period, there will be enough stomach contents to travel up the digestive system.
Sleeping with elevated head
Gravity is an important factor in helping food travel up the digestive system to our mouth. If we can sleep with our head elevated, this process will be more difficult.
Action: try sleeping with multiple pillows to keep your head elevated. Look into adjustable mattresses which allow for positioning alterations.
Alkaline (basic) non-inflammatory diet.
The best way to neutralize the acid from GERD is through a base that comes from our diet or dry mouth products we use.
Action: Prepare meals which have a basic (alkaline) composition they include: leafy green vegetables such as avocado, asparagus, apples, spinach, kale, broccoli, butternut squash, cucumber, green beans, cauliflower, potatoes, apricots, carrots, celery, Fruits such as tomatoes, bananas pomegranates, cherries, melons, pears. Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts almonds, Healthy fats (unsaturated fats) etc. These foods also serve as a source of necessary vitamins and minerals to keep our oral cavity healthy.
Weight loss, regular exercise.
Some studies have shown that even though it is not clear why, but weight gain can play a major role in development of GERD. Scientists think it may be due to physical changes in the digestive tract and or altered metabolism. (1). Some of those studies have shown improvement in GERD symptoms after placing subjects through weight loss and diet programs.
Action: 30 minutes physical activity (walking definitely counts!) per day is recommended. If 30 minutes per day is too much you can start with a shorter walk of 5-10 minutes and increase the time as you get comfortable. The most difficult part is to get started, once you are on the move you will want to keep going. Setting small goals in the beginning is great for finding motivation.
Nicotine, which is an ingredient in tobacco, has relaxing (untightening) effects of a ring of muscle (esophageal sphincter) in our upper digestive tract (esophagus). (2) The role of the sphincter is to keep stomach contents down. If it is relaxed due to tobacco, for example, the acidic stomach contents pass through and up to our esophagus and oral cavity. Therefore, cessation of smoking will help bring back the sphincter back to its function, to keep food down and help with GERD.
Action: Look into smoking sensation. Sorry, there is no way around it.
Acid is very harmful to our teeth, it literally dissolves enamel, makes it thinner by which making the teeth more sensitive and vulnerable to cavities.
- Brush teeth gently with either regular toothbrush or electric toothbrush at least twice per day with fluoridated tooth paste.
- Circular brushing motion is preferred to back and forth motion.
- Remember to disinfect your toothbrush from bacteria that come from your mouth. You can do so by soaking your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide of antibacterial mouthwash.
- Floss every day.
- You can use regular floss, flossers, and interdental brush/dental picks.
- Preferably before brushing your teeth in the evening. That way the areas between your teeth will be clean for the night.
- If you can, floss and brush after every meal.
- Do not eat or drink anything after brushing and flossing your teeth for the night except for water.
- Dental visits at least every 6 months. Have radiographs taken as indicated.
- Ask your doctor whether prescription - strength fluoride toothpaste and fluoride varnish application is indicated for you.
- Treat oral and fungal infections.
- Reline poorly-fitting dentures.
What are some other ways of treating Dry Mouth?
- First see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of underlying medical conditions, including GERD. Ask if any of the medications you are taking are causing Dry Mouth and if you can take alternative medications that do not have the same side-effects.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least 2 L of water per day.
- Use over the counter dry mouth products such ad mouthwash, mouth spray, toothpaste, oral adhesive discs (Xylimelts)
- Ask your doctor about prescription medications such as Pilocarpine or Cevimeline.
- Proper diet: avoid Salty, Sticky, Sugary, Salty, Sour foods. Read here about dry mouth and diet.
- Avoid alcohol and alcohol-containing mouthwashes
- Avoid smoking.
For more information on Dry Mouth and its management follow the links below:
Start with the Free Dry Mouth eBook and Dry Mouth Worksheets: 👉👉👉https://aniaglin.clickfunnels.com/lead-magnet4e6r82bjl4d3bmbklwgdltjqymqusdfs
Join the Dry Mouth Community on Facebook: 👉👉👉https://www.facebook.com/groups/1096621073841219/
Video on the “7 Best Dry Mouth Remedies”👉👉👉: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=F3zxlnzrKIM&t=109s
Dr. Anna Glinianska
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.
1) M. Singh: Weight Loss Can Lead to Resolution of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms: A Prospective Intervention Trial. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2013 Feb. 21(2)
2) P.J. Kahrilas, R. R. Gupta. Mechanisms of acid reflux associated with cigarette smoking. Gut 1990 Jan 31(1) 4-10.