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CA Dental Hygienists Warn that Acid Reflux Could Lead to Throat Cancer

March 20, 2012

Watch what you eat and drink Evamor Alkaline Artesian Water to help quench the rage of acid burn.

Organization Seeks to Educate the Public During Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Sacramento, California

With the launch of Oral Cancer Awareness month in April, the California Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA) today called on Californians to pay greater attention to general oral health – especially the link between acid reflux and the potential for esophageal (throat) cancer.

The American Gastroenterological Association estimates that 33 percent of people in the United States have acid reflux disease. With associated costs approaching $10-million a year, acid reflux disease is the most expensive chronic gastrointestinal disorder in the U.S. Acid reflux symptoms can include heartburn, excessive belching, sore throat, swallowing difficulties, hoarseness, chronic cough and mild regurgitation.

It can have serious effects in the mouth. CDHA officials urge the public to pay closer attention to the way this condition can affect the body as a whole. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, “When stomach acid touches the sensitive tissue lining the esophagus, it causes a reaction similar to squirting lemon juice in your eye.”

Damage will result from chronic acidic irritation as the stomach acid comes into contact with the tissue, according to CDHA. Even the hardest tissue in our body can not resist the acid and the enamel, or outer portion of our teeth, will soften and erode. Once gone, tooth enamel cannot be replaced. Persistent regurgitation of acid should not be overlooked as long-term trauma from acid reflux can also lead to an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Dr. Benjamin Loos, MD and Ear Nose Throat specialist, states “Dental specialists, such as dental hygienists, are in a unique position to look for chronic changes to the dental enamel and oral tissues, including upper throat mucosa. Additional inquiries into their patients’ change in voice, persistent cough or throat irritation may lead to further evaluation by an otolaryngologist.”

Acid reflux is generally divided into two specifics types: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD) and Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR). LPR, however, is a second and more serious type of acid reflux. According to Loos, “with LPR, the larynx is inflamed with intermittent or chronic exposure of gastric acid.”

It is extremely important that patients with acid reflux recognize that different types exist and understand that LPR can lead to cancer,” said CDHA President Lisa Okamoto. “Because this link to cancer is relatively new, LPR is easily misdiagnosed and undertreated. CDHA says many of the warning signs of acid reflux can be screened during a routine dental appointment with a hygienist.

GERD is the type that afflicts the majority of people and is not considered life threatening. GERD is often, but not always, manifested in patients as heartburn and mild regurgitation, especially after meals. It is defined as heartburn that occurs more than twice per week. This condition is often accompanied by a chronic cough, constant need to clear the throat and often a persistent feeling of having something stuck in the throat.

Those suffering from acid reflux can lessen symptoms by:

– Never brushing teeth immediately after acid reflux because the enamel is softened and can slowly erode away.
– Asking their hygienist about fluoride and re-mineralization therapy to strengthen their teeth and request instruction on how to rinse with baking soda and water to neutralize the pH in the mouth after a reflux episode.
– Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising frequently.
– Reducing or eliminating the intake of alcohol and cigarettes.
– Limiting meal size, eating slower, and paying attention to diet: Spicy and fatty foods as well as carbonated drinks can agitate acid reflux.

“Whether you have GERD or LPR, it is important for acid reflux sufferers to talk with their physicians and dental health care professional,” Okamoto said. “With careful explanation and examination, an underlying problem such as LPR may be detected early and treated effectively. And those with the less serious type of the condition can adopt ways to lessen the related health effects.”

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The California Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA) is the authoritative voice of the state’s dental hygiene profession. CDHA represents thousands of dental hygienists. Our mission is to improve the public’s total health.

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