Can acid reflux cause cavities in children?

Common dental wellness threats for children include acid reflux. Acidic beverages and food can potentially harm your child’s teeth. Similarly, stomach acid can cause tooth damage to children with acid reflux problems.

When you know the common symptoms and causes and effects of acid reflux, you can better deliver your child the care they need to combat this dental problem. Learn more about acid reflux and what you do to prevent it from causing teeth issues.

What Is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is a digestive problem that occurs when stomach acid repeatedly flows into your esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. The backwash can irritate your esophagus lining and create discomfort. You’ll also see this issue referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Many people experience acid reflux at least a few times throughout their lives, but people who experience it repeatedly often need to take medication or make lifestyle changes to manage the discomfort.

In children, acid reflux is common because their esophageal sphincter is weak. Babies typically spit up formula or milk until this muscle grows stronger. As your child ages, they may continue experiencing acid reflux, becoming picky eaters or losing interest in eating altogether.

What Are the Signs of Acid Reflux in Children?

Detecting acid reflux in children can be challenging if they haven’t learned to speak or express their pain. If possible, talk with your child to discover any pain or discomfort they might feel. Otherwise, look for apparent signs. Common symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • Burning sensations in their chest, typically after eating
  • Regurgitation or backwash of sour liquid or food
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A lump sensation in the throat
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain
  • Dental enamel loss
  • Sensitivity to certain foods
  • Persistent coughing or throat clearing
  • Loss of interest in eating
  • Wheezing, choking and gagging
  • Frequent trouble with recurring ear infections or hiccups

Some of these symptoms may worsen when your child lays down or throughout the night. Additionally, your child may experience an ongoing cough, vocal cord inflammation or new or worsening asthma during the night as a result of acid reflux.

Your child may not display classic acid reflux symptoms but can still struggle with it. If you notice small holes forming in their molars or canines, they might have acid reflux. You should immediately schedule a dental evaluation and a doctor’s appointment to treat the condition to avoid further inflammation or irritation.

Can Acid Reflux Cause Teeth Problems?

Acid can strip the outer layer of enamel in people of any age. This layer protects your teeth’s sensitive inner structures, making it essential for dental wellness. Without enamel or with thin layers of it, teeth become sensitive to cold, heat and bite pressure, making it much more challenging to eat any meal.

If your child’s enamel becomes weak, they may also experience other forms of damage. You may notice small holes growing on their teeth, or your child could also be at risk for more cracks or fractures.

Additionally, if your child is frequently vomiting from acid reflux, they may not get the necessary vitamins and nutrients to grow and develop strong teeth. Missing out on essential vitamins and nutrients can also lead to other potential health problems.

Although treatment for acid reflux can benefit your child, there are also some concerns you should be aware of. Some medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect. Because saliva helps protect tooth enamel, a lack of saliva from dry mouth could make their teeth more susceptible to bacteria, potentially leading to gum disease and cavities.

How Can You Protect Your Child’s Teeth From Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux can become a significant problem if you don’t take steps to protect your child’s teeth from it. Thankfully, there are different things you can do at home and with your child’s dentist to prevent acid reflux from creating lasting damage.

Preventive Dental Care

One of the best prevention methods for acid reflux is to take your child to regular dentist appointments. Your child can begin going to the dentist after their first birthday and should continue getting exams as they age. At home, you should practice preventive dentistry to combat oral hygiene issues.

Preventive dental care can help your child maintain good teeth health and establish healthy habits like flossing and brushing their teeth regularly. Proper preventive dental care can:

  • Minimize tooth decay: Preventive dental care helps remove harmful bacteria that can cause tooth decay and cavities. It can help protect your child’s enamel and ensure your child’s teeth can get stronger rather than weaker.
  • Preserve enamel: Acid reflux weakens your child’s enamel, but preventive care can ensure their enamel stays strong, helping to protect their teeth from plaque, cavities and bacteria.
  • Fight gum disease: When plaque gets under the gum line, it can cause receding and bleeding gums. Brushing and flossing can help prevent this issue, but pediatric dentists also have the skills to clean below your child’s gum line to keep their mouths clean and strong.

Dietary Changes at Home

You can address acid reflux between dental visits at home. Adjusting your child’s nutritional, dietary and dental hygiene practices can combat acid reflux and reduce its effects. Discuss the foods that would be best for your child with your pediatrician and the portions they should consume. Being overweight can worsen acid reflux, so creating a healthy meal plan with appropriate sizes can greatly help prevent this issue.

You may need to minimize how often your child eats certain foods. Fried, spicy, acidic and sour drinks or foods can cause acid reflux to return. Additionally, sugary and starchy foods can stick to enamel, creating tartar or plaque that can cause tooth decay.

Protect Your Child’s Teeth With Fox Kids Dentistry

At Fox Kids Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to make each visit a delightful experience. We treat each family and patient with quality care and compassion so you always know you’re in the right hands.

We believe in investing energy and time to deliver the best possible experience for every patient. We aim to make it convenient for families to find uninterrupted, comprehensive and total dental care.

Whether you’re noticing acid reflux’s effects on baby teeth, need to plan your child’s next cleaning or have questions about preventive dental care around Portland, Oregon, we’re the right fit for you. Contact our team and let us deliver your child the care they need.


This blog serves to provide general information about dentistry topics to help answer your questions. The above content is for informational purposes but is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice from a licensed pediatrician or pediatric dentist. If you have a dental concern for yourself, your child or another adult, please schedule a consultation with us so you can speak with a dentist.

Leave Your Reply