What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
GERD is the short form acronym for the medical condition Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. This condition has the unmistakable tell-tale sign of horrendously bad breath!
Bad breath is called Halitosis.
Everyone experiences halitosis in some format. Upon waking, the mouth and throat are filled with trillions of bacteria built-up overnight. These bacteria can produce a particularly pungent smell if you sleep with your mouth open.
When you open your mouth and exhale or lick your wrist and smell it, you taste and smell your breath and sometimes that smell can make you wretch. After waking, a mouthful of water will remove most of the built-up bacteria.
When followed up with the morning personal hygiene routine of teeth cleaning, in a healthy person, there should no longer be any bad breath detectable.
Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. More serious conditions and factors can cause halitosis and must be identified and treated by the right healthcare professional. When it comes to the mouth, there are two options. One is medical, and the other is dental. First, you need to establish which of the two professions is the right one to follow up on; in some cases, it might require both.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Explained
Gastroesophageal reflux disease occurs when stomach acid flows from the stomach up the oesophagus tube connecting your mouth and stomach. The acid from the stomach can ‘reflux’, making its way back up the pipe where it irritates and eats away at the soft lining of the oesophagus and strips the enamel from the back of teeth. When this happens frequently, the acid produces an unpleasant taste and creates exceptionally bad breath for the person affected that oral hygiene products cannot correct or mask for long periods.
If you have ever been talking to someone and noticed their breath smells offensively strong, like they have recently eaten a poo sandwich, there is a high probability that person suffers from GERD, not poor hygiene.
Gastroesophageal issues can occur at any age and are often prevalent in young children but are not diagnosed for some years after the initial onset. People can go through their entire life not knowing they have GERD but be aware they have persistent bad breath they can’t fix.
What Causes Bad Breath
Bad breath can be easily corrected in most cases using personal hygiene methods. Specifically, oral hygiene. However, there are other causes of bad breath in the following forms that require clinical assessment from either a dentist, a doctor or both to identify the root cause of the bad breath.
Brushing: Correctly brushing and cleaning the teeth and gums to prevent food from becoming trapped in the gaps. Trapped food breaks down in saliva. When food is trapped and impacted in the space between teeth, it rots and causes bad breath in the short term. Flossing and good oral hygiene will fix the problem quickly and without further medical treatment.
Oral thrush: A heavy white coating on the tongue that requires antibiotics to treat.
Dental decay: Rotting teeth, infected gums.
Abscess: under the teeth in the gums and bone of the jaw, abscessed tooth roots require a root canal and antibiotics a trip to the dentist will correct.
Anorexia/bulimia: throwing up after eating food.
Sinus: sinus congestion or sinus infections can create bad breath.
Bacteria: in high numbers, i.e., sleeping with the mouth open and waking with bad breath.
What Is The Treatment For Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Treatment for GERD can only be found by visiting a doctor who will refer you to a specialist ENT for assessment and then the appropriate medication or surgery.
What Causes GERD
GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux. A circular band of muscle at the base of your oesophagus called the lower oesophageal sphincter relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach. The sphincter closes again to prevent any food or acid from moving back up the pipe.
GERD occurs when the sphincter relaxes abnormally, stretches out of shape, or weakens. Stomach acid is then able to work its way back up the oesophagus through the relaxed sphincter muscle. The constant backwash of acid irritates the lining of your oesophagus and eats away at the tooth enamel, weakening the teeth and leaving them more prone to decay and irreparable damage.
The throat and mouth often become inflamed, and pain is felt in the chest like a burning sensation. If you have ever eaten spicy food that ‘repeated’ on you, you have experienced acid reflux. GERD can be thought of as spicy food taken to the extreme without eating spicy food to kick off the reflux.
What Are The Risk Factors For Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Conditions that can increase your risk of GERD include:
- Bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm in the form of a hiatal hernia
- Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
- Overeating and stuffing the stomach
Factors that can aggravate acid reflux include:
- Taking certain medications
- Eating large meals or eating late at night
- Eating certain foods with a high-fat content
- Drinking certain beverages with alcohol or caffeine in high concentration
Over time, chronic inflammation in your oesophagus can cause more serious conditions. GERD does NOT fix itself; it requires the correct assessment and treatment plan. Without the correct evaluation and diagnosis, the disease can cause further complications like:
Barrett’s oesophagus is a pre-cancerous change in the oesophagus: Damage from acid can cause changes in the tissue that lines the oesophagus. These changes are associated with an increased risk of oesophageal cancer. Chronic oesophageal obstruction can result in the need for bypassing the mouth to feed the stomach directly via a surgically inserted tube. Food can only be delivered to the stomach via a syringe, and all food must have a ‘smoothie’ consistency.
Narrowing of the oesophagus is called oesophageal stricture: Damage to the lower oesophagus from stomach acid causes scar tissue to form. The scar tissue narrows the food pathway, leading to problems with swallowing.
An open sore in the oesophagus is called an oesophageal ulcer: Stomach acid is concentrated and easily wears away the soft tissue of the oesophagus, causing an open sore to form. An oesophageal ulcer can bleed, cause pain, and make swallowing difficult. Coughing up or spitting blood indicates something is wrong and needs to be assessed and treated swiftly.
How Do You Know If You Have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Common signs and symptoms of GERD will include:
- A burning sensation in your chest is referred to as heartburn. This is felt after eating any food.
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid into the back of the throat and mouth
- The sensation of a lump in your throat is a strong indicator of GERD, especially in children. If your child complains of a lump in their throat sensation that persists for more than a week, you should definitely have them seen by a doctor and assessed.
- Chronic cough
- New or worsening asthma
- Disrupted sleep
When Should You See A Doctor
Your instincts will usually guide you to the right time, but some people ignore their instincts. You should seek a medical assessment if you:
- Experience severe or frequent GERD symptoms as listed above
- You take over-the-counter medications for heartburn more than twice a week
- You have a constant supply of antacids within reach
- You frequently taste unpleasant tastes in your mouth.
- You have persistent bad breath, and all other oral hygiene matters have been exhausted.
What Is The Fastest Cure Or Treatment For Reflux And GERD
Over-the-counter antacids can be purchased to settle heartburn symptoms in the short term. Medicines specifically designed to be enteric are prescribed by doctors for more severe cases and require a prescription to purchase.
People who experience bad tastes in their mouth should immediately gargle, swish and spit out a combination of 1 teaspoon Bi-Carb Soda mixed into roughly 40mls or two horizontal fingers against the glass of water. The Bi-Carb Soda will neutralise the acid and prevent it from eating away at the tooth enamel.
Bi-Carb Soda is the active ingredient in all antacids; however, avoid swallowing the Bi-Carb Soda you gargle with. The ratio is well out of proportion, and you will, over time, do more harm than good received by the short-term gains causing bigger and more expensive problems to occur by not seeking the correct treatment when the condition occurs.
Should you at any time experience a burning sensation that quickly becomes severe chest pain that radiates to the jaw or arms, immediately call 000 for an ambulance. You may be displaying the tell-tale signs you or someone else is having a heart attack.
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