What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux, also called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), is when stomach acid washes up into the throat. If a person experiences this symptom, commonly called heartburn, more than twice a week, he or she may have acid reflux. But not everyone with acid reflux experiences heartburn.

Symptoms Include

  • Heartburn
  • Erosion of enamel on molars or backside of teeth
  • Clearing throat often
  • Hoarseness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Recurrent sore throat
  • Feeling like there is a lump in the throat
  • Sour or acid taste in mouth

Who is at risk?

Conditions that increase risk of acid reflux include:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hiatal hernia (between stomach and diaphragm)
  • Smoking
  • Dry mouth
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Delayed stomach emptying
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (tumors on the pancreas)

Diagnosis and Treatment

Acid reflux, though uncomfortable, is not immediately dangerous. If left untreated, however, it can cause permanent loss of tooth enamel and rapid tooth decay. Reflux can lead to other serious problems like damage to the esophagus and cancer.

Acid reflux is treated by a specialist, who may prescribe medication or simple diet and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding acidic foods. Other natural treatments are available.

How a Dentist Identifies Acid Reflux

A dentist may be able to tell a patient has acid reflux, even if the patient doesn’t know. When the dentist sees enamel on his patient’s molars or tongue-side of the teeth eroding, this will lead to discussion about the cause, possibly reflux.

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