Many people underestimate the importance of the dentist. While it is true that Austin Dental Center spends a great deal of time filling cavities, whitening teeth, and placing dental implants, dentists must also help patients who have a wide variety of non-oral conditions. Included on this list is GERD.
What is GERD? This acronym stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is a digestive disorder that is caused by a abnormality of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). In layman terms, there is a small ring of muscles between the esophagus and the stomach. Its purpose is to act like a one-way door. It opens when food needs to enter the stomach, but should close tight right afterward to prevent food and stomach acid from moving back up into the esophagus. When the LES, the ring of muscles, fail to do their job properly, that acid from the stomach surges upward and can burn soft tissue causing discomfort and a host of other symptoms. GERD can vary substantially in severity from one patient to another, depending a great deal on how poorly the LES is performing.
What are the symptoms? The symptoms of GERD are often referred to as heartburn or acid indigestion. An intense pain in the chest feels much like a pit of fire stuck there, which explains the term ‘heartburn’. When the food and acid is free to travel upward, it is likely that it might reach the mouth. This can occur as actual vomiting or just a taste of bitterness from time to time. Generally heartburn will present in the two hours after eating and slowly being to wash away shortly thereafter.
How is it treated? Many people find relief from GERD by simply taking antacid pills when the symptoms occur, or a daily over-the-counter preventative medication. Others need only change position, to stand up in order to stop the progression of stomach acid upward. Doctors may recommend a change in dietary habits, including a reduction in the amount of acidic foods consumed and eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. It is always recommended that GERD sufferers quit tobacco products that can weaken the LES and upset the stomach. Long time sufferers of GERD may require prescription strength daily medications to prevent acid indigestion. In a small percentage of cases, surgery may be necessary to ensure food and stomach acid do not continue to enter the esophagus.
How does it impact oral health? While it is true that Austin, Texas dentists specialize in cleanings, fillings, denture fittings, and zoom laser whitening, they are also concerned with conditions like GERD. The acid that leaves the stomach as a result of this condition can gain access to the mouth. Stomach acid is highly corrosive and can quickly wear down the enamel of the teeth, leaving them prone to decay. The acid can also cause infection in the gums and other soft tissue of the mouth. It is important to speak to your dentist about your GERD to ensure the treatment is keeping the acid at bay and your teeth are properly protected.
Austin Dental Center, PC
2304 Hancock Dr. Suite 1
Austin, TX 78756-2537
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