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Is Acid Reflux Causing Your Toothache?

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The Scottish poet Robert Burns once called toothache 'the hell of all diseases', and if you're currently suffering from a toothache, you might agree with him. The excruciating pain caused by a chronic toothache can have a number of underlying causes and is commonly a symptom of tooth decay or infection. However, you may not be aware that acid reflux can also lead to a bad case of toothache.

How Can Acid Reflux Cause Toothache?

Acid reflux, more properly known as gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), occurs when the contents of your stomach rise up into your esophagus, the long tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. These stomach contents include large quantities of highly corrosive stomach acid.

If acid reflux causes your stomach contents to rise high in the esophagus, some of this stomach acid can leak into your mouth. When this occurs, you may experience a burning sensation in your mouth, and your saliva may take on an unpleasant, acerbic taste.

If you experience acid reflux on a regular basis, stomach acid entering the mouth can cause significant long-term damage to your dental health. Repeated exposure to the corrosive stomach acid can dissolve the hard, protective enamel that coats your teeth. The inside surfaces of your teeth are particularly vulnerable to enamel erosion caused by acid reflux.

Once enamel erosion becomes severe, patches of enamel may be lost entirely, exposing the porous dentin and vulnerable pulp within your tooth. Teeth with exposed dentin usually become much more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, and are more vulnerable to infections of the pulp and nerve endings.

If the pulp inside an acid-damaged tooth becomes badly infected, inflammation and damage to the tooth's nerves can cause severe, debilitating toothache. Without prompt treatment, this toothache will get worse over time, and the pulp inside the tooth may die. Serious pulp infections can also spread to other parts of the body, causing dangerous systemic infections.

How Can Your Dentist Help?

If you are suffering from a toothache that may be caused by acid reflux problems, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible to have the aching tooth (or teeth) treated. If the toothache is severe enough to interfere with your daily life, or you notice facial swelling around the site of the toothache, get an urgent appointment with an emergency dentist.

If your toothache is caused by an infection of the pulp within a damaged tooth, your dentist may be able to save the tooth with antibiotic treatments. The dentist will drill a small hole in the tooth, and inject antibiotic liquids directly into the tooth's inner chamber. If the infection is too severe, you may require root canal treatment to remove the infected pulp entirely.

Unfortunately, tooth enamel does not grow back, even if you get your acid reflux under control, so your damaged tooth will also need to be restored.

If the enamel damage is relatively minor, your dentist may be able to use non-invasive bonding procedures to repair the damage. Dental bonding is made from a similar material to the resin used to create tooth-colored fillings. Thin layers of bonding can be fixed to the surface of your tooth, and are used to cover damaged or absent enamel, protecting the dentin beneath.

More serious enamel damage will need to be corrected using a dental crown or veneer. These procedures are more invasive and expensive but will provide long-lasting protection against infections and enamel erosion.

to learn more about toothaches and how to manage them, contact a dentist in your area.