Acid reflux is a condition in which your stomach contents flow backward into your esophagus – the tube that connects your throat and stomach. Although typical symptoms include heartburn or a burning sensation in the throat, almost 50 percent of people with long-term acid reflux also struggle with bad breath, according to a July 2008 study published in the “Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine.” The good news is there are steps you can take to improve your breath, starting with oral hygiene to clean and freshen your mouth. In addition, effective management of your acid reflux via lifestyle measures and medications is the way to treat this problem at its source.
Brushing your teeth and tongue after meals, cleaning your dentures if applicable, and flossing between your teeth daily can also minimize odors and keep your mouth clean. Most of your mouth’s odor-creating bacteria live on the tongue, so brushing your tongue well can be an effective strategy in controlling your bad breath. The extent acid reflux affects breath odors may be linked to the severity of the condition. However, good oral hygiene is important to counteract bad breath whether your acid reflux is mild or severe enough to be classified as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Your doctor may recommend medications to help control your reflux, which in turn can help minimize or prevent the associated bad breath. Examples of medications used for reflux include antacids, which help neutralize the acid produced by the stomach, and proton pump inhibitors and histamine 2 receptor antagonists – often called acid reducers or acid blockers since they actually reduce the amount of acid produced. Even though many of the drugs used to treat acid reflux are available without a prescription, it’s important to work with your doctor on a medication strategy to manage your symptoms.
When you have acid reflux, good oral hygiene can help improve the foul odors that arise from the regurgitated stomach contents and belched gases that have traveled up into your esophagus and mouth. Gargling with a flavored mouthwash can at least temporarily mask this bad breath. Mouth bacteria and their waste products are also responsible go here for unpleasant mouth odors, and rinsing with an effective mouthwash can be beneficial. The mouthwash ingredients chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium can help control this offending bacteria, and mouthwashes that contain chlorine dioxide and zinc help neutralize the foul-smelling sulfur compounds these bacteria create in your mouth.