Controlling Acid Reflux and GERD to Protect your Oral Health

GERD and Acid Reflux

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Dental Issues Related to Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease and Acid Reflux

GERD not only causes serious medical issues but just as important, its uncontrolled presence results in serious and costly dental issues.

In a healthy patient there is a valve where the esophagus (the long tube that connects the mouth to the stomach) enters the stomach. The valve opens when the bolus of food that you swallowed moves downward so it can enter the stomach. Food in the stomach is broken down during the digestive process by stomach acid, enzymes and duodenal bile.  When the valve doesn’t work correctly it allows stomach contents (acidy liquid food) to be pushed up back into the very sensitive esophagus. The liquid burns the lining of the esophagus and when it reaches the mouth it burns the oral tissues and disintegrates your teeth. More on that subject later.A diagram of Gastric Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD can result in a laryngitis, a tickling chronic cough, earaches and when untreated for an extended time, pre-cancer.

GERD is associated with obesity, eating large meals before going to sleep, eating acidy and highly spiced food. The use of some medicines such as prednisolone, and the presence of a Hiatal hernia and sleep apnea have been linked with acid reflux.

If the previous information does not stimulate your interest then think about your teeth and gums. The acid causes chronic gum inflammation that leads to more severe gum disease and bone loss. When the teeth are bathing in acid on a regular basis for a prolonged period of time, the enamel is washed away; the dentine and the roots get sensitive. Once the protective enamel is gone and the teeth are sensitive many patients avoid brushing and flossing allowing plaque to build up. That coupled with dry mouth due to a myriad of prescription medications, results in a damaging cycle that allows dental decay to run rampant, especially around the gum line.

GERD affects ten to twenty percent of the population, with adults over 60 yrs of age being most commonly afflicted. With our aging population, more and more of the seniors are experiencing this devastating disease.  The condition is also reported to occur in young children.

So what do you do about it? First off get a good medical check up and tell you MD that you have an acid burn in your throat and mouth.  He or she will prescribe a medication to control the acid production. There are many different medications and some work better than others. My own personal experience has been with Nexium.  Its great medicine and heals up the acid burnt tissues petty fast. Ask your physician about it.  Sleep on an incline (head raised) or on your left side to decreases acid reflux. Another significant factor is to eat a small light meal in the evening, as early as possible before bedtime.

If you eat a large spicy dinner with hard to digest items such as fatty meats, you are guaranteed to have an episode.

You can have a surgical treatment as a last resort.

If you do have an episode, rinse your mouth with glass of water that has ½ teaspoon full of baking soda (Arm and Hammer) as this neutralizes the acid and stops the burn. You can also drink some of it or a glass of milk and antacid tablets. Prevention is really the key.

Loose weight, eat an early and light dinner, take the appropriate medication, practice good oral hygiene and use fluoride topical gels to protect your teeth.

If you ignore the effects of acid reflux on your mouth, you are inviting lots of expensive dental treatment that can be avoided. So please take the consequences seriously and avoid the GERD destructive cycle.

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