Antacids are a class of drugs used to treat conditions caused by the acid that is produced by the stomach. The stomach naturally secretes an acid called hydrochloric acid that helps to break down proteins. This acid causes the contents of the stomach to be acidic in nature, with a pH level of 2 or 3 when acid secretion is active. (pH levels are a measure of acidity in the stomach: the lower the number, the greater the acidity.) The stomach, duodenum, and esophagus are protected from acid by several protective mechanisms. When there is too much acid or protective mechanisms are inadequate, the lining of the stomach, duodenum or esophagus may become damaged by the acid, giving rise to inflammation and ulcerations and their various gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, and heartburn (due to gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD).
Antacids reduce acidity by neutralizing (counteracting) acid, reducing the acidity in the stomach, and reducing the amount of acid that is refluxed into the esophagus or emptied into the duodenum. Antacids also work by inhibiting the activity of pepsin, a digestive enzyme produced in the stomach that is active only in an acid environment and, like acid, is believed to be injurious to the lining of the stomach, duodenum, and esophagus.
It is important to note that when antacids are taken on an empty stomach they provide acid reduction for 20 to 40 minutes only because the antacid is rapidly emptied into the duodenum. When taken after a meal, (approximately 1 hour afterwards) antacids reduce acid for at least three hours since food from the meal slows emptying of the antacid (and food) from the stomach. It is important to discuss the use of antacids with a physician or pharmacist, especially if used in combination with other prescribed medications so as to avoid drug interactions.
The Hidden Dangers Of Popping Antacids
Many foods, including dairy products, meats, fish, some grains, sugars, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages can contribute to an overabundance of acid in the body. To combat the indigestion and discomfort these foods may cause, people take antacids. Trouble is, antacids can have damaging side effects on your smile.
If you take antacids frequently, you could also develop dry mouth. Saliva is your body’s best defense against periodontal disease and tooth decay. It flushes out bits of food and bacteria, interfering with plaque formation. Saliva also has natural antacid properties, which neutralizes acid formed by bacteria in your mouth. Most brands pack a shocking amount of sugar, which mixes with bacteria in your mouth to form plaque and tartar. If you take chewable antacids, your risk of developing cavities increases significantly. These chalky tablets mix with your saliva to create a paste-like consistency that clings to your teeth, beneath the gum lines, and in every imaginable crevice in your mouth.
Antacids May Weaken Your Teeth
We all know that our stomach needs acid in order to digest our food. If you are someone who needs to take antacids often, or in high doses; your body can try to overcompensate by producing even more acid than normal. It’s a vicious cycle – produce more acid, take more antacids, etc. What many people don’t know is that when antacids try to block acid from being produced, they also limit the absorption of calcium and protein from your foods. Both of these elements are important for the strength of your teeth and jaw.
Antacids Can Lead To Tooth Decay And Gum Disease
Often, antacids are flavored to make them easier to take. However, they are also full of sugar, which can get stuck in the grooves of your teeth. When the sugar lies on your teeth for long periods of time, your risk for decay is increased. There is also a risk of dry mouth when one uses antacids. Saliva aids us in washing away food and particles from our teeth and to help neutralize the acid produced by plaque. When you produce less saliva, you take away this important role. This could lead to gum disease and tooth decay. After You “Spell Relief” Rinse The Antacids Off Your Teeth
Tips For Avoiding The Negative Effects Of Antacids
Although infrequent antacid use doesn’t pose a threat to your oral health, you shouldn’t rely on them for long-term relief of your reflux symptoms. Over time, taking acids induces your body to produce more stomach acid. When this happens, you will notice that you get heartburn more frequently. In response, you take even more antacids, creating a vicious cycle.
- Use antacids in moderation. Try sugar-free ones.
- Rinse your mouth after taking antacids, and after eating acidic foods.
- Limit your consumption of acidic foods and beverages. If you do, rinse your mouth immediately afterward. Wait half an hour to brush your teeth. Acid weakens tooth enamel, so brushing could do more harm than good.
- Immediately after taking a chewable or liquid antacid, rinse your mouth with water for at least 30 seconds.
- Chew sugar-free gum to combat dry mouth caused by antacids. Chewing gum causes your mouth to produce more saliva, which will neutralize acid and wash away bits of food.
- Baking soda can help clean your teeth AND neutralize stomach acid.
- Use antacids only as a last resort. When purchasing antacids, opt for products that do not contain added sugar or dyes.
- Schedule regular dental appointments. Your dentist will clean your teeth and assess whether your enamel has sustained damage.
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