Ever experience a painful burning sensation radiating from inside the chest?
Well, that’s good old heartburn. And persistent symptoms, more than twice weekly, may be a sign of acid reflux (officially Gastroesophogeal Reflux Disease, or GERD). However, not everyone with GERD suffers from heartburn. In fact, you may have GERD and not even know it.
Acid reflux is caused when the esophageal sphincter, which separates the stomach from the esophagus, allows acid to seep out of the stomach. Many times this acid causes heartburn, but not always. In the absence of heartburn symptoms, sometimes the first indication that an individual suffers from GERD is the erosion of the hard enamel surface covering the back teeth or molars.
Since stomach acid is so strong, it can eat away at the enamel on your teeth. Your dentist may be the first to notice symptoms of the disease when he or she detects enamel loss.
If detected, your dentist may refer you to a specialist, who may prescribe treatment or recommend lifestyle changes, such as avoiding acidic foods.
Left untreated, GERD can do long-term damage to your body. Loss of enamel is permanent, and if left unchecked, may lead to the rapid decay of affected teeth. Prolonged exposure to stomach acid can irritate and inflame your esophagus and may even lead to esophageal cancer.
That’s why getting a regular oral exam from a dentist is so important–your dentist may find early symptoms of a potentially serious problem such as GERD.