Acid Reflux and Dental Decay: Are they related?

Acid Reflux and Dental Decay: Are they related?

By Dr. Anveeta Agarwal

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is fairly common today among children and adults. But what exactly is GERD? Esophagus is the food pipe that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. The muscle at the end of the esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes during swallowing to allow food to pass and then tightens up to prevent flow in the opposite direction. When this muscle randomly opens up or does not shut properly, the acidic contents of the stomach, including highly acidic digestive juices, gush back into the esophagus, resulting in a burning sensation in the chest or throat known as heartburn. When these symptoms are experienced often, the patients is said to be suffering from GERD. The incidence of GERD increases markedly after the age of 40. Not just adults are affected; even infants and children can have GERD.

These refluxed acidic contents have adverse effects on the mucosa of the esophagus, oropharynx, and respiratory system. In the mouth, the refluxed acidic content leads to dissolution of the enamel of the tooth, with eventual loss of tooth substance, and resulting tooth erosions, decay and hypersensitivity. These patients experience dry mouth, which increases the bacterial load and can lead to an increase in tooth decay. Many a times; dentists are the first health care professionals to diagnose GERD in patients because of widespread tooth erosion.

Persistent GERD causes irritation and inflammation of the esophagus, and increases the chances of esophageal cancer and other diseases. It can cause a slew of medical and dental issues and has to be addressed at the earliest.

What are the signs and symptoms of GERD?

• Heartburn

• Regurgitation

• Loss of appetite

• Chronic cough

• Hoarseness of voice

• Non cardiac chest pain

• Acidic taste in the mouth

• Belching

• Unpleasant odor in the mouth

• Tooth Erosion

A gastroenterologist can diagnose and help treat the condition. Few lifestyle modifications that can be done are:

• Refraining from eating three hours prior to bedtime. This reduces the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

• Refrain from lying down right after having a meal.

• Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day helps reduce reflux.

• Avoiding fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine, spicy foods, citrus foods.

• Avoiding alcohol ingestion.

• Quitting smoking. Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter and increases reflux.

• Shedding off that excess weight.

Certain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, anti asthmatics etc irritate the stomach mucosal lining and can exaggerate reflux symptoms. These should be discussed with the doctor and alternative medications be taken.

To prevent tooth surface loss, few precautions that can be taken are:

• Refrain from brushing your teeth immediately after a reflux episode. Brushing may damage enamel that has already been weakened by acid.

• Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva and reduces acid content in the mouth.

• The dental surgeon would prescribe mouth rinses and toothpastes containing fluoride to make the teeth resistant to demineralization.

• Refrain from drinking carbonated drinks.

Unexplained widespread tooth surface loss can indicate the possibility of GERD and medical and dental management of this reflux disease is mandated. With proper medications, GERD is treatable, but relapses are occur.

Depending on the extent of tooth loss, resin restorations to occlude the exposed tooth surfaces or full crowns might be advised by the dental surgeon. The main aim of the dental treatment is to protect the exposed dentin and prevent further breakdown. In addition, fluoride treatment to allow remineralization of the tooth surfaces would also be recommended

Regularly scheduled dental and medical appointments will help reduce the episodes of reflux and allow you to live a reflux free comfortable life!

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

By Dr. Anveeta Agarwal, BDS, MDS
Consultant Oral Pathologist, Associate Dental Surgeon
Specialist at Dantah

Twitter: @AnveetaAgarwal

Email : anveeta@dantah.com

 

Full Article:   http://www.newdelhitimes.com/acid-reflux-and-dental-decay-are-they-related/

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