If you have problems with your upper gastrointestinal tract, you may experience stomach pain, chest pressure, a burning sensation in your throat, and nausea. While these are some of the most common symptoms, there are other, less obvious ones. Sometimes, the symptoms of stomach disorders appear in the oral cavity. Here are three ways your dentist can detect stomach problems through a dental exam, and what you can do about them:
If you suffer from acid reflux, you may experience heartburn due to the migration of irritating gastric acid into your esophagus and throat. Since stomach acid is very irritating to the mucous membranes of the mouth, your gums may be affected. Acid reflux can cause irritation of the gingival tissue, leading to pain, inflammation, and bleeding of your gums.
If your dentist notices that you have bleeding gums despite a meticulous oral health regimen and regular dental check-ups, he or she may suspect a stomach disorder such as acid reflux disease.
To help reduce your risk of acid reflux and subsequent gum problems, avoid trigger foods such as chocolate, peppermint, onions, coffee, and citrus fruit. Also try sleeping with the head of your bed elevated, and take an over-the-counter acid-reducing medication.
Stomach acid can also lead to a condition known as dental erosion. When the enamel erodes from your teeth, they can become weaker, making you susceptible to cavities and infections of the root.
If dental erosion is suspected, your dentist may recommend that you brush your teeth with a special toothpaste which can help strengthen your tooth enamel so that it is more resistant to the effects acidic foods and beverages such as coffee and orange juice. If dental erosion causes pain or sensitivity, ask your dentist to recommend toothpaste specially formulated for those with sensitive teeth, which can help dampen nerve sensitivity.
When acid from your stomach rises into your throat, it can cause inflammation and redness. When your dentist examines your teeth and oral cavity, he or she will also look into your throat. If redness, and perhaps, small ulcers are present, you may be referred back to your primary physician for further evaluation and testing to rule out digestive disorders.
In the meantime, avoiding acidic foods and beverages, not smoking, staying within a normal weight range, and limiting your intake of alcoholic beverages can help keep redness and inflammation at bay.
If you think you have acid reflux disease or any other digestive disorder and suffer from any of the above symptoms, work with both your dentist and physician to develop an effective treatment plan to help heal your oral cavity and minimize tooth and tissue damage.