Most people associate heart burn, that awful burning sensation inside of the chest and all that comes with it, as the primary side effect of acid reflux (aka gastroesophageal reflux disease – GERD). Most people don’t realize that not all people who suffer from GERD have heartburn. In fact, for many acid reflux sufferers, it’s the dentist who tells them about this problem during a dental checkup.
During a normal dental exam, your dentist or hygienist may notice erosion on the enamel of the rear molars or erosion on the backside of the teeth. Dentists can spot early signs and symptoms of what can become a serious problem. When a person’s esophageal sphincter allows acid to seep out of the stomach, this is whats known as acid reflux. Many times, when acid seeps through people experience heartburn, but not always. Some people are not bothered by the seepage, and only realize they have this troublesome disease when a dentist tells them there is a problem with their teeth. Stomach acid will eat away tooth enamel that can lead to tooth decay and other problems.
If your dentist notices erosion, they may refer you to a specialist for treatment or recommend certain lifestyle changes and food choices that help eliminate or lessen the side effects of GERD. Unfortunately, the loss of tooth enamel is not reversible, so stopping problematic reflux is important to your oral and overall health. GERD has been linked to esophageal cancer and inflammation and irritation of the esophagus. Recent studies indicate that the mouth can be a window to the entire body as nearly 90% of systemic diseases have oral manifestations that can be detected during the oral examination at regular dental checkups.