GERD; The Symptoms Can Be Seen On Your Teeth
Dr. Lori Veerman recently attended a continuing-education seminar about GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and, as you dentist, wanted to share some information that could save your life.
You’re probably wondering how GERD relates to teeth and why this information is so important to your overall health.
What is GERD?
GERD is a disorder in which stomach contents leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus and the mouth.
What does GERD have to do with my teeth?
The pH of the gastric reflux is extremely acidic and causes erosion of the teeth. This sometimes becomes severe enough that we have to rebuild the teeth.
Why your dentist plays an important part in identifying possible GERD side effects?
Nearly 25% of all patients with GERD have no symptoms (silent GERD), so your dentist may be the only one who will see the effects (tooth wear) and be able to refer you to a physician for proper diagnosis.
So how can your dentist help you save your life?
Up to 20% of GERD patients develop something called Barrett’s Esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer. There has been a 350% increase in esophageal cancer since 1970. Esophageal cancer generally has a poor prognosis, so early diagnosis and treatment could save your life.
Why is there a huge increase in esophageal cancer?
The reason for this sudden upsurge is not clear, but it is known that many of these cases are preceded by damage and ulceration in the lower esophagus due to chronic acid reflux, or heartburn. Even though over 60 million Americans feel heartburn at least once a month, the problem is not really taken seriously.
Of course, occasional mild heartburn is not serious. But many individuals live with severe heartburn on a daily basis and think that is just the way it is supposed to be. They go to the neighborhood drug store and purchase antacids in the giant economy size. They always have Tums or Rolaids in their pocket and often awaken during the night and take a dose of Maalox. Nowadays, they use Pepcid AC or Tagamet HB, or one of the many over-the-counter acid suppressors. They are not alone. In fact, Americans spend almost $15 billion a year on medications to treat heartburn. Still they have symptoms, but put off seeing their doctor. Not everyone with heartburn is at risk for cancer. But when it occurs, it is almost always fatal. Over 12,500 Americans a year get this form of cancer. The more severe the heartburn and more frequent the symptoms, the higher the risk of cancer.
Blog post by Lori Veerman D.D.S.