GERD: How It Can Affect Kids Dental Health
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD isn’t just for adults as this disease can affect children and even babies. In very young children it can cause fussiness and vomiting after feeding, while in older kids GERD may lead to stomach and chest discomfort or heartburn. The good news is that most kids will outgrow GERD without needing medical care, but it can affect their teeth.
What Causes GERD?
GERD results from the contents of the stomach which are highly acidic moving backwards towards the esophagus, a condition called reflux. This might happen because the muscles connecting the esophagus to the stomach fail to close properly or relax at the wrong time.
Babies with GERD will have formula or breast milk regularly refluxing back into the esophagus but typically outgrow this condition by the time they are one or two. Some kids with developmental or neurological conditions are more at risk of GERD and may have longer lasting and more severe symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of GERD in Kids?
Kids and teenagers with GERD may experience heartburn that can last up to a couple of hours. Heartburn tends to be worse after meals and when it occurs in babies and young children can lead to problems during and after feeding. Young kids with GERD can frequently regurgitate or vomit food after meals and are at additional risk of choking or wheezing if these contents get into their lungs or windpipe. Young kids or babies with acid reflux may frequently have wet hiccups or burps and they might be irritable after eating. Some kids will refuse to eat as it can be painful for them to swallow, or will only eat tiny amounts of food and as such this can lead to a failure to gain weight. Your child may also report they have an acidic taste in the mouth and their breath might even have an acidic odor in the mornings.
What Are the Effects of GERD on Teeth?
There is little doubt that GERD can be an unpleasant condition but it also exposes teeth to strong stomach acid. Pediatric dentist Brooklyn such as Dr. Marina Krepkh at the Kids Dentistry Center will see the results of GERD on teeth as it can create areas of acid erosion. Teeth that previously had cusps may become worn down and develop cavities. If a child has any untreated cavities then it can make them worse. Any dental fillings can eventually become loose as the tooth structure around them becomes worn or eroded away. Enamel erosion also creates tooth sensitivity and in very severe cases may even result in the tooth nerve in the center of the tooth becoming exposed and abscessed.
Our pediatric dentists can treat the dental symptoms created by GERD, but it’s worth contacting your child’s pediatrician for a proper diagnosis. They may recommend further evaluations and tests or might suggest some type of medication to help reduce the effects of GERD. It’s well worth doing this as GERD can create long-term problems to dental health if the symptoms aren’t treated, and perhaps even more importantly it can create long-term medical risks and may lead to severe throat problems in adulthood.