GERD is a digestive disorder also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is most common in adults, however, children may develop GERD as well. Even babies are not immune to developing GERD. It can be aggravated by certain trigger foods, such as citrus fruit, onions, garlic, chocolate, and coffee.
Your risk for GERD may also rise if you are overweight, if you smoke cigarettes, or if you take certain medications. Symptoms of GERD may include heartburn, a burning sensation in your throat, coughing, excessive throat clearing, and even esophageal spasms and chest pain. It can also wreak havoc with your oral health causing the following tooth and gum problems.
Acid Enamel Erosion
When acid escapes from your stomach as a result of a weak lower esophageal sphincter valve (LES) or another problem, it can travel up into your esophagus and throat. In certain cases, caustic stomach acid may even reach the inside of your mouth and make contact with the enamel on your teeth.
Over time, this can damage your tooth enamel and cause acid erosion. When this happens, your dental enamel may become thin and weak, allowing bacteria to get into the middle of your tooth where the pulp is. This can cause decay and severe infections known as abscesses.
If your general dentist determines that you have acid erosion as a result of GERD they may refer you to your primary care doctor and recommend a special toothpaste or mouthwash to help strengthen your enamel.
In addition to raising your risk for enamel erosion, stomach acid from GERD can also damage your gums. Not only can stomach acid damage your gum tissue but the medications you take to manage your acid reflux disease can also harm your gums. At the first sign of bleeding or swollen gums, make an appointment with your general dentist for an examination and treatment.
If left untreated, mild gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, which can both damage the soft tissue of your gums and put you at risk for damage to the bones that provide support for your teeth. If you have mild gum disease, stepping up your oral hygiene routine and getting more frequent cleanings may help to quickly promote the healing process. If warranted, however, your dentist may refer you to a gum specialist, known as a periodontist.
If you have GERD, see both your primary care physician and your general dentist on a regular basis. When the symptoms of GERD are recognized and effectively managed, you may be less likely to develop oral consequences as a result of acid reflux.