You might be surprised at your next dental visit when one of our hygienists asks you about having possible digestive problems.
“Have you noticed a tendency for indigestion, particularly at night when you are lying down?”
Although one doesn’t usually think of the dental team as a source of information about stomach acid reflux, we are often able to detect acid reflux by-products, long before the patient himself/herself is aware of a problem.
G.E.R.D., the acronym for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder, happens when the muscular closure between stomach and esophagus becomes weakened, allowing stomach acid to navigate up to the oral cavity when a person is lying down. The National Cancer Institute estimates that as many as 40% of those suffering from it are asymptomatic and are unaware of any discomfort (2012).
Unfortunately, the increase in salivary acidity can result in extreme wear patterns in the teeth, particularly molars. This, in turn, can cause an increase in decay and tooth erosion, necessitating new fillings and crowns to correct the damage. Additionally, extreme irritation of the soft tissues of the oral cavity and esophagus can occur, increasing the incidence of acid reflux-caused esophageal cancer being diagnosed.
It is highly recommendable to consult with your physician if signs of acid reflux are brought to your attention at your dental check up. It is through the partnership of your dental care team and your medical providers that we can work together to support your whole body health.