Gastric Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastric reflux, according to the NIH (National Institute of Health) is when the stomach contents come back up the esophagus which is the wrong way. This can get bad enough that it becomes gastric reflux disease (GERD). The most common reason for this is that the lower esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscles at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach, does not maintain the closure and allows the stomach acids to come back up. According to the AGD (Academy of General Dentistry) Impact magazine, symptoms include heartburn, chest pain, burning sensations behind the breastbone, coughing, wheezing, sour taste, difficulty swallowing, and halitosis.

The Risk

The biggest risk factor occurs when the lining of the esophagus undergoes a transformation which can further turn into cancer of the esophagus.

What can the dentist see?

There are also dental signs: excessive erosion of teeth, red inflammation of the oral cavity and the pharynx and difficulty swallowing.

What the patient can do:

So what do you do about it? These signs and symptoms indicate that the patient needs to make some changes in their eating habits. According to the AGD Impact magazine, alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods and high-fat foods should be cut back or eliminated. Other suggestions include not eating late, losing weight if you need to, and sleeping with your head elevated.

The easy way out is taking one of the many over the counter drugs that neutralize acids. But this only treats the symptoms and the condition can worsen. There are also side effects to many of these drugs so it is only a band-aid, not a final solution.