Most people are aware that acidic foods can have a weakening effect on tooth enamel, potentially causing an increased number of cavities, enhanced sensitivity and unsightly discolouration. Unfortunately, it’s not just food that can increase oral acidity; acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) also has the potential to cause a number of different dental problems. Read on to find out more about this debilitating condition and how it can be successfully managed.
What is GERD?
Due to the processes involved in digestion, the stomach contains highly acidic secretions that help to release nutrients from food. Normally, these secretions remain safely within the stomach, prevented from entering the oesophagus by the lower oesophageal sphincter. For various reasons, the sphincter can cease to function as it should, allowing highly acidic materials to continuously penetrate through to the more delicate oesophageal tissues and even up into the throat and mouth.
What are the symptoms and complications of GERD?
The main symptoms of GERD are regurgitation, heartburn, indigestion and feeling sick (nausea). If left untreated, GERD can cause a number of unpleasant conditions, including a recurring sore throat, asthma, dental issues and bad breath. Chronic GERD can even be a factor in some forms of oesophageal cancer.
Treatment and prevention
There are a number of different treatments available, including prescription antacid medicines, as well as over-the-counter options. For people who are suffering from GERD due to an underlying problem (for example a hiatus hernia), getting the problem resolved often helps to relieve the condition. Lifestyle changes including weight loss can also help. The dental problems that are precipitated by GERD are frequently resolved through both good dental hygiene and regular dental check-ups. Using treatment options, such as fillings and teeth whitening, dentists are able to minimise the damaging effects that GERD can have.
The serious complications that can occur from untreated GERD mean that prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential. If you think you might be suffering from GERD, visit your GP and don’t forget to inform your dentist so that they can ensure you receive the most appropriate care.