A gastroenterologist is someone who specializes in the identification and treatment of problems that have something to do with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and that is why he or she is the one who can help in effectively diagnosing and managing acid reflux. However, other types of doctors, too, can also recognize acid reflux based on the presenting signs and symptoms, and one of them is your dentist.
It can be very easy for a dentist to know if an individual is suffering from acid reflux because of the manifestations of the said condition on the teeth as well as other parts of the mouth. So if you have an undiagnosed acid reflux, a trip to the dental clinic may reveal the fact that you are actually suffering from it.
Heartburn, a sour or metallic taste in the mouth, regurgitation of food or sour-tasting liquid, difficulty swallowing, a feeling that there’s a lump in the throat, hoarseness, dry cough — all of these are the typical signs and symptoms of acid reflux. But then there are also a variety of effects that this condition has on your mouth.
Stomach contents that can be forced back up your esophagus and into your mouth are highly acidic, and this can wear away the protective layer of your teeth, which is the enamel. While it’s true that it is a very hard substance, your enamel can be easily eroded by acids.
When tooth erosion strikes, there are other problems that can come after. For instance, your pearly whites can become sensitive, leaving you in pain when consuming foods and beverages that are either too hot or too cold. Then your pearly whites can become discolored, too, as it is the enamel that gives your choppers their white coloration. And since the hard protective layer of your teeth is already eroded, it can be very easy for them to become chipped.
If acidic stomach contents can damage enamel which is very tough, just think of the damage they can cause your gums! Some individuals who suffer from acid reflux wind up with inflamed gums as they get irritated by the sour-tasting liquid or food that makes its way back to your mouth.
Having swollen gums can damage your smile because it is your gums that hold your pearly whites in place, as well as supply them with nutrients. If left uncontrolled, it’s not unlikely for your teeth to become loose. What’s more, you may actually lose your teeth if your gums are not in a great shape to keep them in place.
Because stomach contents can be very irritating for the various soft tissues in your mouth, it’s not unlikely for someone like you who has acid reflux to frequently suffer from oral sores that are so painful they can interfere with your life.
Just about any place in your mouth that can get irritated by regurgitated food and stomach acids can develop oral sores — these ulcerations can strike because of many reasons, and one of them is trauma to the soft tissues of the mouth. Although it’s true that oral sores tend to go away on their own after a week or so, their presence can make it extremely challenging for you to have a normal life as it can affect eating, drinking, talking and others.
Having acid reflux can also leave your breath smelling unfavorable. Again, it’s all because of the regurgitated food or sour liquid. Gum inflammation and oral sores, both of which can also be due to acid reflux, can make it difficult for you to practice and maintain good oral hygiene, and this can contribute to bad breath.
JUST A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION: It’s of utmost importance to see your doctor if you have acid reflux to have it put under control with the help of medications as well as a few dietary and lifestyle changes. Otherwise, repeated bouts of acid reflux may wind up as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, which is something more serious and can cause all sorts of complications like esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus and even esophageal cancer.