Monday, February 29, 2016

Acid Reflux and Your Oral Health

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Acid reflux occurs when acids from the stomach flows up into the esophagus. The acid irritates and inflames the lining of the esophagus.

People who have chronic heart burn (GERD) are at risk for serious damage to the esophagus, which can lead to developing esophageal cancer. They are also at an increased risk for tooth erosion and oral health problems.

Oral Effects from Acid Reflux
  • Constant exposure of stomach acid can erode the tooth's enamel.
  • Often patients are unaware of the damage that reflux-induced erosion has caused to their teeth until the destruction is at an advanced stage.
  • Tooth/enamel erosion leads to increased: wear, tooth decay, chipping, sensitivity, and discolouration.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux:
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  • Heartburn
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Hiccups
  • Nausea
  • Dry Cough
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Burning mouth
Treating Acid Reflux:

If symptoms persist over two weeks, or over-the-counter antacids do not bring lasting relief you should contact your physician.

Lifestyle changes can be made to help treat acid reflux:
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine.
  • Eat smaller more frequent meals.
  • Do not eat for 2 to 3 hours before bed.
  • Elevate your head when lying down to relieve symptoms.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing/belts around the waist.
  • Some medications can trigger heartburn/acid reflux; ask your physician if any of your medications may have this side effect.
Maintaining Good Oral Health:
  • Visit a dental hygienist for regular professional cleaning and evaluation/treatment for tooth erosion.
  • Brush twice a day using toothpaste for dentin sensitivity. Use a low abrasive fluoridated toothpaste and a soft toothbrush. (Toothpastes containing baking soda are low in abrasion and will aid in neutralizing acids.)
  • Do not brush after being exposed to acid, whether from acid reflux or food and beverages. Because acid softens the tooth's surface, brushing will cause more enamel loss. Wait 30 minutes until the natural flow of saliva washes away and neutralizes the acids.
  • After reflux episodes, rinse with water or use a sugar-free antacid and let it dissolve in the mouth.
(*Maintaining Good Oral Health Adapted from "Acid Reflux and Oral Health" - by The Ontario Dental Hygienist Association)

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