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GERD and Your Teeth

GERD And Your Teeth

GERD Affects the Health of Your Teeth

Dr. Veerman attended a continuing-education seminar that contained a lot of informative facts, and she wanted to share some information with you that might even save your life.  The topic was gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  Below she will share with you how it relates to teeth and why this information is so important to your overall health.

What is GERD?

GERD is a disorder that many people suffer from in which the contents of a person’s stomach leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus and sometimes even into the mouth. The pH of the gastric reflux is extremely acidic and causes erosion of the esophagus and teeth. This sometimes becomes so severe that we have to literally rebuild the teeth.  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 and be able to refer you to a physician for proper diagnosis.

Is Acid Reflux the Same Thing?

Although the symptoms are similar, acid reflux and GERD are not the same.  Acid reflux is when the acid in your stomach backs up through your esophagus, yes, but it is actually a symptom of GERD itself.  Acid reflux can happen to anyone, triggered by eating something too acidic or fatty.  GERD is an actual disease in which acid reflux is a symptom that happens frequently — even daily! — sometimes with no triggers at all.

What Foods Cause GERD?

GERD was first reported over 200 years ago, and it is still a constant battle for patients of all ages and their dental professionals to this day.  So many foods and drinks today are extremely acidic, and patients with GERD or acid reflux need to stay away from foods like the ones below as often as they can.

Fatty Foods

Foods high in fat delay the natural process of your stomach emptying its contents, which is a big factor in acid reflux. Fried foods like french fries or onion rings, fatty meats, potato chips, ice cream, gravy, or any creamy salad dressings have a high fat content.  Avoid cooking your food in animal fat, such as bacon or ham fat.

Chocolate

Chocolate contains methylxanthine, which is an ingredient that relaxes your smooth muscles yet is a cardiac stimulant.  This combination often leads to acid reflux.

Citrus Fruits and Vegetables

Everyone should eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.  However, patients with GERD have to avoid certain types, especially of the citrus kind, like lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes.  Many of them also get acid reflux when eating salsa or foods containing tomatoes.

What Does GERD Do To Your Body?

Acid reflux a very uncomfortable thing to experience, and over time, it can cause some very serious dental and health issues.  In addition to loss of sleep and breathing problems, the list of discomfort contains a major dental concern: enamel wear.

man holding pills
Constantly having acid reflux in your mouth causes the enamel on your teeth to erode, leaving your teeth much more susceptible to cavities, decay, and infection.  Your teeth also turn yellow, become extremely sensitive to hot and cold drinks, and become chipped, cracked or pitted. Other complications include:

  • sore throat
  • coughing
  • regurgitation
  • laryngitis
  • pneumonia
  • erosion of the esophagus
  • inflammation of the esophagus
  • Barrett’s esophagus (which can lead to cancer of the esophagus)

How Does a Dentist Rebuild Teeth That Have Been Eroded Due to GERD?

Although dentists are able to place filling material in areas that have been worn down due to acid reflux, there is a better, more long-term plan for eroded teeth.

Dental Crowns

Custom made to fit over your entire tooth, dental crowns are great ways to restore teeth that are extremely eroded due to acid reflux.  They are especially good to strengthen the teeth whether they are front or back teeth.

Dental Veneers

If one or more of your front teeth are showing signs of erosion due to acid reflux, dental veneers could be an option for you. These typically only cover a portion of your tooth and will help protect against additional erosion of that surface.

Knowledge is Power

So how can this information “save your life”?  As stated above, some GERD patients – up to 20%! – develop something called Barrett’s Esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer.

holding hands
In fact, there has been a 350% increase in esophageal cancer since 1970. Esophageal cancer generally has a poor prognosis, which means early diagnosis and treatment could definitely save your life.

If you suffer from acid reflux, don’t think it is something you have to live with.  Visit your doctor today to not only lessen your discomfort but also prevent your teeth, mouth, and esophagus from serious damage.

Blog post by Lori Veerman D.D.S.

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