Are you experiencing heartburn regularly? If you are, you want to visit your doctor. Although heartburn can be caused by certain foods we drink and eat, consistent heartburn is a sign of another serious problem known as gastroesophageal reflux or more commonly known as acid reflux. What does it have to do with our dental health? It’s a health condition that affects your overall including your dental health. To know how it affects our dental health, let us first learn what acid reflux is.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
As mentioned commonly known as acid reflux or GERD, is a digestive disorder which occurs when the acidic stomach juices back up into the esophagus due to the muscle at the end of our esophagus don’t close properly. When it doesn’t close, this allows our stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus.
When it happens, we can experience burning in the chest and throat area, even taste it in the back of your mouth. It is a disease which can affect anyone from infants to adults.
Even though heartburn is a common symptom for GERD, not everyone shows heartburn symptom. There are other indicators that you might have GERD such as
- Acid regurgitation
- Chronic sore throat
- Hoarseness or laryngitis
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Bad breath
These are some of the symptoms you can experience when you have GERD, and if you are showing one of these symptoms visit your doctor to get a proper diagnosis to get the treatment you need.
Affects Your Health
Acid reflux can affect your health if it is not treated or controlled. Some other health issues that can arise for GERD are
- Esophagitis – when the stomach acid is continuously coming into contact with the lining of the esophagus causing injuries such as erosions or ulcers.
- Barrett’s esophagus – is a condition which happens to a small percentage of people with long term GERD. It’s a condition which causes abnormal changes to the lining of the esophagus particularly the cells that similar to the cells found in the lining of the intestine.
- Strictures – when the lining of the esophagus is damaged, it can become scarred and narrow your throat which interferes with your ability to eat and drink.
- Esophageal cancer – The are two major types, squamous cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma. The latter is a development of cancer in the lower part of the esophagus which can arise from Barrett’s esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma is cancer which begins in the upper and middle lining of the esophagus in the squamous cells.
Aside from it affecting your digestive health, it can also affect your dental health. One of the symptoms you can experience from acid reflux is acid regurgitation, meaning acid is entering the esophagus and at times the back the mouth. When acid comes to the back of the mouth, the acid can permanently damage the enamel in our molar.
The erosion of the enamel is permanent, taking away at the protective layer of our teeth which can lead to tooth decay especially to our back molars. It can be more damaging at night when asleep since our saliva production slows down producing less saliva at night to neutralize acids in the mouth. If your tooth’s enamel is worn out, you can experience some of the following tooth conditions
- Tooth sensitivity
- Discoloration to the teeth usually yellow
- Risk of tooth decay
- Dental abscess in extreme case
Your dentist can help determine if there is damage to your tooth’s enamel and the best treatment to proceed with to protect your tooth from further damage. However, you’ll still need to visit your primary doctor to treat your acid reflux. There are ways you can reduce GERD to prevent the acid from coming into the back of your mouth by
- Eating smaller meals
- Avoid heavy evening meals
- Not eating close to bedtime (at least 3 hours before)
- Not laying down after eating
- Decrease the amount of acidic food and drinks
Visiting your dentist will not only help maintain your dental health, but it will also allow your dentist to thoroughly examine your teeth and mouth for signs of oral and dental health issues such as enamel damage from acid reflux. Our dental health can be an indicator of health issues we might need to address to get treatment if it affects our overall health. See your dentist today to get a full examination done to ensure your teeth are healthy. You can call our offices at 801-747-8000 or fill out our appointment form.
Medicine Plus – GERD
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Acid Reflux (GER &GERD) in Adults
HealthyMouth – Tooth Erosion and Acid Reflux