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Dental Problems? Explore Reflux (It's Not Just Heartburn & Indigestion)

Dental Problems? Explore Reflux (It's Not Just Heartburn & Indigestion)

At-A-Glance

  • Heartburn and indigestion are familiar symptoms of acid reflux. However, they are experienced by fewer than 20% of people with acid reflux. Breathing issues and cough are the most common symptoms.
  • Acid reflux can cause cavities, gum and dental disease.
  • Treatment of reflux can effectively stop disease progression, but treatment by dentists or oral surgeon is usually still needed.

From Jamie Koufman, World's Leading Expert on Acid Reflux

A 56-year-old accountant was referred to me with rapidly progressive dental and gum disease by an oral surgeon who suspected that the man had reflux into his mouth causing the problem. I examined the patient and performed reflux testing. Indeed, his reflux was severe.

I placed the patient on an intense anti-reflux program and all of his dental and gum disease stabilized. He did end up having some gum repair surgery, but I followed them for two years with no recurrence of the problem.

Gum disease (gingivitis) is usually attributed to dental hygiene, inflammation of the gums, plaque and tartar. In general, this process is relatively slow, often taking 10+ years to become obvious. But progressive dental and gum disease in an adult, usually over a one- to two-year period, is likely to be related to acid reflux (i.e. LPR, respiratory reflux and particularly silent nighttime reflux).

Many of these patients will tell you that they can taste a bitter/ sour taste in the morning - that is the most obvious sign that silent nighttime reflux can be the cause. By silent, we mean reflux that doesn't present as indigestion or heartburn. Coughing, breathing and speaking are the most common signs of silent reflux.

By the way, this connection between dental issues and reflux is recognized in the dental literature, but it is not easy for dentists to make a positive diagnosis other than recognition of related reflux symptoms.

What Lifestyle Choices Cause Acid Reflux / Dental Issues?

The greatest risk factors for silent nighttime reflux that causes dental disease are:

  • Eating too late
  • Eating foods that cause reflux (high-fat foods, fried foods, chocolate, etc.)
  • Having the evening meal be the largest meal of the day
  • Going to bed with a full stomach
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Mint relaxes the lower valve, so switching to a cinnamon mouthwash helps some

First, See If You Likely Have Reflux

The Koufman Reflux Symptom Index (RSI) is a proven tool to determine if you likely have acid reflux. Note that heartburn and indigestion are just one symptom in the index (which only 20% of refluxers experience).

If you have an RSI score of 15 or greater, you have a 90% chance of having reflux, even if you have never had heartburn or indigestion. This is called silent reflux, and it's very common.

Please understand that it’s important to take steps if you have reflux to manage it through lifestyle changes (explained later). If you let reflux run rampant, you’re setting yourself up for sleep apnea, COPD, chronic respiratory conditions, and a far higher risk of esophageal cancer.

Where to Get More Information

My best-selling book Dropping Acid is a comprehensive place to start. If you’d like an initial primer on reflux, this article is also wonderful.

If you've read at least one of my books and you're following my guidance and you still need help, you can book a consultation with me.

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When Jamie Koufman gives advice, you should listen.

Dr. Koufman has been a world-renowned pioneer in acid reflux for decades. Through her medical practice and scientific research, Dr. Koufman almost single-handedly advanced our understanding of the interaction between digestive and respiratory disease. She has won prestigious awards and is a New York Times best-selling author for her books on reflux and chronic cough.

Dr. Koufman’s Books on Reflux

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The Voice & Reflux Institute of New York | Transnasal Esophagoscopy
Copyright 2020 | Dr. Jamie Koufman | Privacy Policy + Disclaimer
Copyright 2020 Dr. Jamie Koufman
Privacy Policy + Disclaimer
The Voice & Reflux Institute of New York
Transnasal Esophagoscopy
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