It is now well established that good oral health is absolutely essential for good overall health. The links between gum disease and heart disease are well established. Looking at it in reverse, what health problems can lead to poor dental health?
Reflux, heartburn, gastro-esophageal reflux disorder (GERD). It goes by many names. The symptoms can sometimes not be as noticeable as simple heartburn. Coughing and difficulty swallowing are also symptoms of GERD. What about dental erosions?
The answer is yes–GERD can be associated with dental erosions. The problem here is that your PCP and your dentist likely don’t chat together very often, so the two conditions may not be linked by the providers.
So the real issue here is not that reflux can cause dental erosions, but rather, what do we do to improve GERD?
If someone is close to dying from a bleeding ulcer, than no one has a good argument that acid suppressive therapy like Aciphex, Nexium or Prilosec is not a good idea. Since this is not usually the case, the use of long term acid suppression is probably one of the worst things a doctor can do for their patients. It is not uncommon for a new patient to come into my office and we find that they have been on medications for this for 10+ years.
What this does to our digestion, especially over these time frames, is incalculable. The list of problems is extensive, but can include obesity, bone fractures, liver problems, allergies, colorectal cancer and depression. For those that think this list is a bit of a stretch–it’s time to read up more on the physiology of the gut and how integral healthy digestion is to this process.
So, here are things you can do to help your stomach and esophagus:
- Chew your food. Saliva helps convert nitrates in fruits and veggies into NO, which has been shown to help support the lining of the stomach.
- Maintain an anti-diabetic lifestyle. Yes, Virginia, diabetes is linked to GERD as well.
- Eat more phytonutrient rich spices, fruits and vegetables. These will protect against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a bigger player in reflux than even acid.
- Add digestive support. It is far more common for someone to make too little stomach acid due to stress or aging than for someone to be making too much acid. Supporting digestion can reduce the buildup of gases during the digestive process and lower the risk of forcing open the lower esophageal sphincter.
- If all else fails, non-invasive surgery is likely a better option then stayed on acid suppressive medications for a lifetime.
So, overall, good oral health AGAIN has to focus back on good health habits overall. And those with good oral health habits will likely have a better overall healthy lifestyle. The two are entertwined.