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20
Nov

Acid Reflux - Your Dentist May Notice Before You Do

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Most people know that painful burning sensation radiating from inside the chest – heartburn. Persistent symptoms, more than twice weekly, may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. But not everyone with GERD has the symptoms of heartburn. In fact, you may have GERD and not even know it.

How can your dentist tell?

GERD, commonly called acid reflux, is caused when the esophageal sphincter, which separates the stomach from the esophagus, allows acid to seep out of the stomach. Many times this acid causes heartburn, but not always. In the absence of heartburn symptoms, the first indication that a person may have GERD is the erosion of the enamel on the molars or on the backside of teeth.

"Stomach acid can eat away at the enamel on your teeth," says Dr. Ken Sutherland, DDS, a Delta Dental senior dentist consultant. "Your dentist may be the first to notice symptoms of the disease when he or she detects enamel loss." If detected, your dentist may refer you to a specialist, who may prescribe treatment or recommend lifestyle changes specifically for the treatment of GERD, such as avoiding acidic foods.

What can you do?

Loss of enamel is permanent, and if left unchecked, may lead to the rapid decay of affected teeth. In addition to loss of enamel, GERD can do other long-term damage to your body, such as irritation and inflammation of your esophagus, which may even lead to esophageal cancer.

That's why getting a regular oral exam from a dentist is so important—your dentist may find early symptoms of a potentially serious problem before it progresses. In fact, more than 90 percent of systemic diseases have oral manifestations that may be detected during an oral exam by a dentist.

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