Don't be Afraid of the Doctor

The Most Common Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is caused when the oesophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle that serves to separate the stomach from the oesophagus, fails to do its job. When this happens, stomach acid can rise up into the oesophagus and mouth.

This can put you at risk of all kinds of conditions, including oesophageal cancer, and it can also take its toll on your teeth. Here are a few of the most common signs that you may be experiencing GERD.

Chest Pain

Stomach acid is corrosive, so it tends to cause pain if it is allowed to flow out of the stomach and into the oesophagus. When this occurs, you may experience relatively severe chest pain. This should never be ignored since chest pain can be an early sign of a heart attack. However, GERD-induced chest pain is more likely to occur either after a large meal or when you are lying down.

Bitter Taste/Bad Breath

People with GERD essentially have an impaired barrier between the back of their throat and their stomachs. Since food is digested within the stomach, it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that a break in that barrier often causes bad breath and a sickly, bitter taste in the mouth. If you notice this occurring no matter how well you take care of your teeth, it might be a sign of GERD. The sensation is often similar to the feeling in your mouth just after you have vomited.

Persistent Coughing

The irritation caused by GERD often leads to a persistent dry cough. This is likely to be accompanied by a sore throat, hoarseness, and the persistent sensation that there is a large lump in your throat. You may also experience dysphagia (a difficulty swallowing) as a result of these feelings. These symptoms may progress to the point at which is is difficult to eat, drink, or even talk.

If you do think you have GERD, it's important to see a medical professional straight away if you want to prevent issues with your oral and overall health. The condition can be treated by taking medication or making a few lifestyle changes, and your overall health will thank you. In the meantime, make sure you don't brush after experiencing acid reflux; this may cause additional damage to your tooth enamel as it will just have been weakened by stomach acid. Instead, try chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva and neutralise acid. For more information, contact your family doctor.