Acid reflux and heart burn are so common today that it’s impossible to watch a television program without seeing at least one commercial for an over the counter relief aid such as Pepcid AC, Gaviscon, Maalox or Zantac. Anyone who has ever suffered through heart burn or acid reflux knows that these aids can be a life saver but are only a temporary solution.
For those people that have chronic episodes or daily issues with acid reflux or heart burn, I would like to let you know that there is a medical term used to describe this, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD for short. This disease is very manageable, and when taken routinely, the medications prescribed can actually help you save your teeth.GERD is very noticeable in the oral cavity, and often it is diagnosed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
What your dental provider might see:
- Shiny tooth surfaces – particularly the biting and tongue surfaces of your back molars and the tongue surface of your top front teeth.
- Raised filling – appearance that your filling is pulling out of your tooth when in actuality, your tooth is disappearing from around the filling
- Thin (translucent), chipped edges of the front teeth
- Yellow tooth appearance on the biting or tongue side
What you may have noticed in your mouth:
- Increased sensitivity to cold/hot or sweet
- Smooth feeling teeth
- Tooth colour change
- Chipped top front teeth
What harm does GERD do? Besides eroding away your tooth surfaces and causing new decay around old dental fillings, GERD has been found to be a strong causative factor in esophageal cancer due to the weakening of the lining of the esophagus by the acid gas from the stomach.
What to do now? Seek advice from your health care provider. There are different medications that can be prescribed by your medical doctor that will act on a long term basis to help alleviate your acid reflux and burping, thus helping prevent further acid wear to your teeth. By preventing acid reflux, you are helping your teeth maintain the remaining enamel, any dental restorations and any further sensitivity. As well, you are eliminating one more possible cause of cancer.
Don’t be shy; ask your dentist or dental hygienist during your next visit if they see any signs of GERD in your mouth.
By: Jessica Sech RDH