Does your child suffer from acid reflux? They're not alone. Up to 8% of Australian children and teens are affected by gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), as well as around 1 in 5 babies. Aside from its uncomfortable effects on the body, reflux can also have devastating effects on your child's teeth. The acid rising from the stomach is strong enough to dissolve tooth enamel. One study showed that 50% of GORD sufferers had severe erosion and tooth wear in comparison to participants without acid reflux. Luckily, there are ways to minimise the effects of reflux on your little one's teeth. Here are 4 things you can do to preserve your child's oral health.

Feed Them a Low-Acid Diet

Reflux increases the amount of acid in your child's oral environment dramatically. The last thing you want is to introduce even more acid to their teeth. Unfortunately, many of your child's favourite foods may be very acidic. Sweet beverages like cola and juice are very high in acids. The same goes for lollies and fruit -- particularly citrus fruits like oranges and pineapple. Anything sugary presents a problem, as the bacteria in plaque turn sugar into acids. Try to limit the amount of sweet, acidic foods in your child's diet. Replace their sugary drinks with water, and try swapping some fruits for less acidic options like melons and bananas. Sugar-free jelly and string cheese make great low-acid treats for snack-loving kids.

Make Them Wait Before Brushing

While it may seem like a good idea to tell your child to brush their teeth straight after an acid assault, this does more harm than good. Instead of quickly removing the harmful acid, your little one will actually be damaging their enamel. Think of your child's teeth like a paper towel. If you tug on a good paper towel when it's dry, it's unlikely to tear. However, when it gets wet, it's far more flimsy and requires very little force to rip. Similarly, when your child's teeth are exposed to acid, the tooth enamel is weakened. In this state, it only takes a small amount of pressure to damage the enamel. Make sure your child waits at least 30 minutes after an acid assault before brushing their teeth to minimise this damage.

Get Them a Mouthguard

It may be a good idea to get your child a dental mouthguard to wear at night. Mouthguards (also known as night guards) are usually prescribed for tooth grinding, but they also create a protective barrier around teeth that prevents acid from reaching the enamel. Talk to your dental clinic about whether a mouthguard would be appropriate for your child's age. Don't forget that children (and their mouths) grow quickly, so custom-fit mouthguards will need replacing often.

Give Them Sugar-Free Gum

If your child is old enough, chewing sugar-free xylitol gum could be beneficial. Research suggests that xylitol chewing gum is actually good for teeth. It reduces plaque, which is responsible for breeding further acids. Remember that chewing gum presents a choking hazard for young children, so avoid giving it to children under 5.

In addition to these tips, remember to take your child to see a dentist regularly. If any problems do arise as a result of your little one's acid reflux, a dental professional will be able to rectify the issues before they get worse.