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Are You Aware of the Relationship Between Diabetes and Periodontal Disease? Part 1

Welcome back to my returning readers and to those of you who are new to this blog.  For those of you who are reading “regulars”, you already know that Dr. Scharf is a licensed Periodontist in Long Island whose blog focuses on educating his readers and patients in all things dental, especially those which are important to maintaining ongoing good health or improvement of impaired health.  In keeping with that philosophy, today we begin a new article series on diabetes and periodontal or gum disease and the relationship which exists between them.  So, without further ado, let’s get started, shall we?

The Basics of Diabetes

First of all, before you can understand how important this article series is and how it can help improve your health, we need to make sure everyone is on the same page on the topic of diabetes — what it is and what it isn’t.  It is hoped that the information we will be providing will help to prevent the development of diabetes or the worsening of it if you are already afflicted with it.

What Diabetes Isn’t

It is important to understand that diabetes and the potential of being diagnosed with it is not something to take lightly.  Nor is it something that you can put off worrying about or taking steps to prevent because you’re “too young” to worry about it..  While it is true that diabetes (type II) has always been considered a disease of the aged, recent health statistics reveal that type II diabetes is being found in younger and younger people every year.  The statistics even show an alarming increase in the occurrence of type II diabetes in children (formerly only type I or juvenile diabetes being found in children or teens).  The experts attribute this increase to the decreasing amounts of physical activity being preferred by our children and the diets being fed to them. This creates the other rapidly increasing health malady among children….obesity…which is also considered a contributor to the development of diabetes.

Also What Diabetes Isn’t

Diabetes also isn’t just too much sugar in the diet.  It is true that sugar is definitely a contributor to its development but simple sugar isn’t the only component.  Starches and simple carbohydrates also become sugar during the digestive process and go into the blood as “glucose”.  If your body isn’t burning the nutrients which you are putting into it, then excesses will build up in your body and one of those excesses is glucose.  Exercise is one of the ways to force your body to burn those excesses and our children, as well as most American adults and teens, are simply not getting the exercise they need to metabolize those excesses.  They are, instead, “couch potatoes” staying inside to play video games, games on their tablets and phones or watching TV while they eat potato chips, pizza and candy and drink sodas.  All of the excess fats, proteins, carbs and sugars get into the blood and cause problems with a variety of other bodily systems and the way they function, upsetting the balance of this amazing human machine designed by the Creator.  

Now that we have established some of what diabetes isn’t, next time, we’ll talk about what it is.  In the meantime, we encourage you to get established with a dental professional who can take care of the oral health of each and every member of your family.  Dr. Scharf wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island and, in that role, he can help to identify and treat gum disease in your family.  Call him at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

 

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 11

Hello to all of my returning readers!  It has been several weeks since we posted on this blog site, but today, we will continue the article series of GI issues and gum disease.  As promised in our last installment, today, our goal is to discuss peptic ulcers and how periodontal or gum disease can fit into the causative puzzle.  For those of you who are frequent or returning readers, you already know that Dr. Scharf is a licensed Periodontist in Long Island who likes to educate his readers and patients in any area which affects their overall health, especially at it applies to all things dental and periodontal.  So, let’s get started with our discussion today on how gum disease can affect your risk of developing peptic and other stomach ulcers as well as more serious maladies.

Connecting the Dots

It isn’t always a straight path from relating mouth ulcers to stomach ulcers.  Most people, if they are experiencing oral tissue ulcers, will assume it is a side effect from severe gum disease, or at the minimum, assume that it is somehow oral in nature.  But, how many of you who are reading this article right now, would be able to connect the dots  from periodontal disease to stomach ulcers?  Not many, we would assume, but, perhaps, more of you might think in those terms if you have been following this article series.

What You Probably Already Know

Most of you probably already know that gum disease, if left untreated, can lead to a number of health issues, some of which are not only major and life-threatening but also seemingly unrelated to periodontal disease.  The factor that connects these major health issues (which, by the way, includes increased risk of cancers) is the unchecked growth of bacteria in the oral tissues which gets into the bloodstream.  Once in the bloodstream, it is transported virtually to every organ and part of the body, where it is taken into every tissue type in its path.  Once it gets into those various tissue types in those various organs and parts of the body, the damage cycle begins, leading to heart and cardiovascular issues, diabetes, kidney problems and any number of cancers.

H. Pylori Bacteria

Studies have been done recently which reveal an increased risk of cancer in patients having H. pylori related stomach ulcers.  This study also reveals that  patients with gum disease who have gum pocketing depths of 5 mm or greater have an increased risk of developing H pylori infections.

It is our hope that the information in this article series has increased your awareness of the fact that gum disease is a great deal more prevalent and, if left untreated, is a great deal more dangerous to the overall health of each and every member of your family than you may have been previously aware.  But, fear not!  Dr. Scharf can help!  He wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island and, in the role, he can help to identify and treat gum and periodontal disease in any member of your family.  Please don’t put off establishing with a dental professional.  Call Dr. Scharf today at (631)661-6633 or pay him a visit online at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 10

Hello to my returning readers, my new readers and to our patients! If you were with us last week,  then you know that we started a new topic in this article series and that topic was peptic ulcers.  Dr. Scharf is a licensed Periodontist in Long Island whose goal is to educate our  readers and patients in the various areas of overall general health, especially as they apply to gum and periodontal disease.   Today, we will continue the discussion about peptic ulcers and, hopefully, you will learn some new and important things about gum disease and GI issues.

First, Let’s Briefly Review

In an attempt to bring everyone up to speed on last week’s installment, let’s briefly review what we talked about in last week’s installment on peptic ulcers.   For those of  you who were with us last week, then you will recall that we defined what an ulcer is and discussed a couple of things that cause these ulcers to develop.  We reported that the H-pylori bacteria is one of the things responsible for the development of peptic ulcers in addition to the fact that long term use of non steroidal anti inflammatory medications can interfere with the stomach’s ability to protect itself from stomach acid and digestive juices and the ulcers result from this.  We also pointed out that, when these ulcers are the result of NSAID use, they usually heal once the medication is discontinued.

There Are More Causes

Last week, we discussed only  two of the causes of peptic ulcers but there are others.  Most of the other causes are lifestyle issues:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Radiation therapy

Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing peptic ulcers or even heal the ones you may already have.  Generally, the ulcers heal once the offending cause is discontinued.

So, You Ask, “What Are the Symptoms?”

Believe it or not, many people have peptic ulcers and don’t even know it while others don’t even exhibit the classic symptoms listed below:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding in the stomach or duodenum in severe cases

What Are the Treatments for Peptic Ulcers?

Of course, with so many possible causes for the peptic ulcer, there isn’t a “one size fits all” type of treatment.  The treatment will depend on the root cause for the ulcer and these treatments can include quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, decreasing caffeine, avoiding aspirin and NSAIDs, acid-blocking medications, medications designed to protect the stomach lining and duodenum.  The prognosis for the various treatments is generally good for peptic ulcers.  If, however, you don’t respond to these treatments, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem.

Next time, we will talk more about how gum disease and periodontal disease fit into the puzzle with peptic ulcer development.  In the meantime, we cannot stress enough how important it is to establish and maintain a relationship with a good dental professional. Dr. Scharf wants  to be your Periodontist in Long Island and, as such, he can evaluate and treat gum and periodontal disease in any member of your family.  Call him at (631)661-6633 or pay him a visit online at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

 

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 9

Hello to all of my returning readers, new readers and patients!  For those of  you who have been reading this blog recently, then you know that we promised  in the last installment of this article series, that  we would begin a new sub-topic.  And, since we try very hard to keep our promises, today our new sub-topic is gastric ulcers, specifically peptic ulcers.  Also for those of you who follow this blog,  you know that Dr. Scharf  is a licensed Periodontist in Long Island who loves  to educate his readers in matters of particular interest to health  which can have an effect on your overall health, especially as those health matters relate to your oral health.  In keeping with that plan, today, we will begin a discussion on gastric ulcers, specifically peptic ulcers, and gum disease.  So,  away we go! 

First of All, What Is An Ulcer?

Quite simply, an ulcer is a sore or ulceration in the lining of your stomach or intestines.  In actual fact, there are several types of digestive  ulcers of which the human body can suffer, being located in various parts of your digestive system.   For today’s discussion, we  will  be focusing on the type known as the “peptic” ulcer which is located in the small intestine.  

Have You Ever Wondered What Causes the Ulcer to Develop?

Basically, the ulcer is caused by a bacterial organism called helicobacter pylori (more commonly referred to as “H-pylori”) and this bacteria has the ability to  weaken the protective coating of the lining of the stomach.  With the protective coating weakened, the acid from the digestive system then has an avenue that leads to damaging the stomach lining, with the development of the ulcer or sore to follow. For most people who suffer from peptic ulcers, the most frequently reported symptom  is burning pain in the stomach.

Believe it or not,  another interesting cause of peptic ulcers is certain medications given to treat dental issues.   You see, when you have mouth pain or when you’re recuperating from oral surgery, it is a common practice for many dental professionals to recommend using a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)  like ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen.  This helps to reduce the inflammatory response from the surgery and from oral infections.  Even though the H-pylori bacteria is responsible for peptic ulcer development, it seems that the NSAIDs, when taken over a lengthy period of time, can result in ulcers because they interfere with the stomach’s ability to appropriately protect itself from stomach acids and digestive juices.  However these ulcers generally heal once the NSAIDs are discontinued.

If you have a peptic ulcer, your medical doctor will likely recommend taking bismuth subsalicylate (such as Pepto Bismol) to rid your system of the H-pylori. The bismuth subsalicylate actually has a reaction which takes place in your mouth — your tongue will turn black!  This is truly a harmless side effect but it can certainly be cause for concern if you’re not prepared for it!

In our next installment, we will discuss a few more important facts about peptic ulcers and gum disease.  In the meantime,  Dr. Scharf  wants you to know that he wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island and, in the role,  he can identify and treat gum disease and periodontal disease in every member of your family.  Call him at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

 

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 8

Hello again to all of our returning readers as well as to  our new readers and patients.  If you have been following this blog,  then you are likely aware that Dr. Scharf is a licensed Periodontist in Long Island who enjoys providing easy to understand and informative articles about all things dental.  We do that with an article series writing method that educates our readers in smaller bites about complicated and involved health conditions.  As we promised last week, we are going  to conclude this particular subtopic on hiatal hernia with a discussion ways to decrease or control the symptoms of this sub-topic of GI problems and the relationship to gum disease.

In Our Past Installments

In our previous installments to this subtopic on hiatal hernia, we have talked about just exactly what a hiatal hernia is and how it develops.  We have discussed the “regurge” and what is going on when it occurs.  The damage that is being done to both the esophageal (throat) tissues as well as the oral tissues has been discussed as well.  Having discussed all of this, now it is time pass along some things you can do to help manage the condition.

A Few Lifestyle Changes May Help

Once your hiatal hernia develops, there is surgery to attempt eliminate it but that may not necessarily end all the symptoms. But, take heart, there are some lifestyle changes which may help to control the condition and reduce the symptoms and the damage they are causing.  

  • Elevate your head when sleeping – this step allows naturally occurring gravity to help keep the stomach acid from refluxing into your esophagus when you are sleeping or otherwise reclining
  • Eating smaller and more frequent meals will help ease the pressure in the stomach which helps to move the acid upwards into the esophagus
  • Avoid certain foods which are generally known to aggravate the condition.  For those of  you who have had a hiatal hernia for awhile,  you probably already know what foods can trigger  the symptoms.  But, for those newly diagnosed sufferers and for the possible further education of those longer-term sufferers, here are some of those foods which are recommended to be avoided:
    • Spicy foods
    • Greasy foods
    • Acidic foods like onions, tomatoes and citrus

Other Treatment Options

It is likely that, once you have been diagnosed with hiatal hernia, your medical doctor will give you some recommendations of his own for management of the symptoms.  If you watch TV, you already know there are a number of oral medications on the market these days which are advertised as heartburn control medications.  Some of these are still available by prescription only while others are now available as over-the-counter medications, and they work well to manage the symptoms to prevent or reduce the reflux and the discomforts and damage associated with it.  Your medical professional will provide guidance about which are most likely to provide the best relief for your particular situation.

In our next installment on GI problems and gum disease,  we will delve into another subtopic of interest to your health.  In the meantime, please don’t continue to put off that call for help.  Dr. Scharf wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island.  He can help to identify and treat any gum disease or periodontal disease in any member of your family.  Call him at (631)661-6633 or visit him online at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel.

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 7

Hello again, to all of my returning readers as well as to my new readers and patients.  If you have been following this blog,  the you already know that Dr. Scharf is a licensed Periodontist in Long Island whose goal is to provide easy to understand and informative articles about all things dental.  We have been doing that via the method of article series writing  in an attempt to educate our readers in smaller bites about complicated and involved health conditions.  With that in mind, this current article series is covering many facets of GI issues and gum disease and the ways they are related.  Our segment today will continue this series on hiatal hernia or GERD with the discussion of what is going on in your mouth when that stomach acid escapes through your esophagus .  

First, Let’s Very Briefly Recap

In the past several weeks, our series segments have talked about what a hiatal hernia is and some of the damage that can occur when the escaped stomach acid gets into the esophagus tissues which were not designed for its abrasiveness.  Today, we are going to discuss the damage being done inside your mouth when that stomach acid infiltrates those sensitive tissues.

The Rates of GERD Patients Increasing

Here are some statistics from  2007:  For example, did you know that, in 2007, it was estimated that about 36% of American adults who were otherwise healthy  suffered from episodes of heartburn at least one time a month? Or, how about the fact that 7% actually suffer from heartburn on a daily basis? Or, that the risk of experiencing heartburn escalates after the age of 40 years? Or, that infants as well as children can also have GERD?  Those statistics are ten years old now and the numbers increase annually of both diagnosed as well as undiagnosed cases.  

Now, for the Real Oral Damage

 How does the damage occur?  The culprit is the regurgitation (the effortless return of esophageal or gastric contents into the pharynx) that occurs without nausea or retching which results in the acidic gastric contents getting into the throat and mouth.  This action causes a sour taste or burning in the mouth or throat and may even contain particles of undigested food. Though this is certainly unpleasant, the damage that is being done to those precious dental tissues is even more unpleasant.

Enter the Damage from Dental Enamel Erosion

Did you know that the enamel of your teeth is made up of approximately 97% (by weight) of a form a calcium phosphate which is generally insoluble?  It is the pH level in your mouth which keeps it insoluble.  However, if the oral pH level decreases, the solubility increases.  How does this happen, you ask?  When you consume fruit based drinks or carbonated drinks, the acidity levels in your mouth change…and this can happen when that stomach acid gets regurgitated up into your throat and mouth.  The higher acidity levels in the mouth will erode the enamel of your teeth, going deeply into those bony tissues, making them more prone to cavity damage, a less than desirable surface appearance of the teeth and decreased overall strength of the teeth.

As the dental enamel erosion continues, it will continue to breakdown your teeth, causing more than just a less brilliant smile to be sure!  Next time, we will finish up this sub-topic of hiatal hernia with a discussion of ways to decrease or control the symptoms of the condition.  Until then, please make that call!  Dr. Scharf wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island and, in that role, he can help to identify gum disease and periodontal disease, and yes even that dental enamel erosion.  He can provide treatment for every member of your family.  Call him at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel.

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 6

For all of my returning readers, those new followers as well as my patients read regularly, I welcome you all back!  It is our hope that this blog series has helped gain new and important information about GI problems and gum disease and  how gum disease can have an effect on other areas and systems in your body.   As a brief review,  you may recall, we have been discussing  a very common GI issue called hiatal hernia.  The reason we have been focusing on this GI issue is because it is so common and  because it is one which most people seemingly blow off as being unimportant.  In the past couple of  installments of this series,  we devoted a good deal of time to educating you on what a hiatal hernia is as well as some contributing factors to its development.  Today, as promised in the last installment, our plan is to discuss the dangers that this condition can pose for you and your loved ones.  So, without further ado, let’s begin.

If You Have a Hiatal Hernia 

If you have a hiatal hernia, chances are that you may not even be aware of it.  For the hiatal hernia itself, there are usually no real “symptoms” to tell you that you have one.  The problems suffered with when one has a hiatal hernia stem from the GERD condition described in previous segments of this series.  When GERD is present it means that the esophagus is allowing stomach acid to get up into the throat area where it isn’t supposed to be, an action called “refluxing”.  It is when this stomach acid gets into the throat area that the burning and discomforts begin for the host.  

Now  the Problems Begin

For those of  you who suffer from the symptoms of GERD, you may or may not know that you most likely have a hiatal hernia.  But, you probably know that GERD can cause the heartburn, chest pain or burning that you’re likely suffering from.  But are you aware that the reflux of that stomach acid can also cause nervous responses which can cause a cough or a lung spasm similar to an asthma attack? And did you know that, if acid droplets are refluxed into the back of your throat, as happens in some patients,  those droplets can be inhaled or aspirated into the the lungs, leading to coughing spasms, asthma or repetitious lung infections which include pneumonia and bronchitis.  This danger is very real for people of all ages, from infancy to old age.

Have You Had Pain Similar to Heart Attack?

For some of those people who suffer from GERD and hiatal hernia symptoms, the pain they feel in their chest has been described as that which is commonly described as the crushing, can’t hardly get a breath kind of pain that I’m sure you’ve heard about that which one having a heart attack experiences.  And, because this pain is so similar, it is easy for many people to blow off the pain thinking it’s just heartburn when it could actually be a heart attack symptom when, in fact, it could be signalling some underlying cardiac or cardiovascular problems.  I’m sure you can see why getting this malady diagnosed is vital to decrease the danger of death or disablement by a heart attack versus simple heartburn.

Not the Only Dangers

There are other dangers related to untreated acid reflux due to hiatal hernia.  These dangers all stem from the inflammation from the presence of the stomach acid in an area not designed for their abrasiveness.  Over time, the inflammation caused by the acid reflux can cause:

  • Esophagitis – inflammation of the esophagus
  • Esophageal ulcers – ulcerated areas that develop on the esophagus from extended exposure to inflammation from the acid reflux
  • Bleeding and scarring of the esophagus – also emanating from the constant exposure to inflammation from the acid reflux
  • Cancer of the esophagus – yes, the constant exposure to inflammation can also cause cancer to develop here

I hope you can readily see that ignoring those heartburn and chest pain symptoms as well as ignoring the fact that you might have a hiatal hernia, could result in some very major health problems, some of which could be fatal.  Add to this with the fact that gum disease causes major inflammation in your mouth which travels to all parts of the body in the bloodstream, changing how various parts of it function, and  it adds up to a dangerous formula.  This dangerous formula does have a resolution, however… make that call and get established with a dental professional who can identify and treat the oral inflammation and infection as a step in the resolution direction.  Dr. Scharf  wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island and he can function in that “ID and treat” role.  Call him at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 5

Hello, again, returning readers!  We are so happy to have you return for this installment of this important dental and health topic of GI problems and gum disease.  For those of you who have been faithfully (or even not so faithfully) following  with this blog,  we don’t have to tell  you know two things about it:

  1. Our focus  has been on gum disease and how it can relate to general health problems
  2. And that Dr. Scharf is a licensed Periodontist in Long Island who has a deep desire to educate and inform his readers and his patients on things which could rob them of an otherwise happy healthy and fruitful life.

With that being said, let’s get started on today’s article segment…

A Slight Change in Plans …

For those of you who are more regular followers of this blog, you know that our most recent topic within this blog series has been how GI problems can be linked to gum disease.  For today’s blog post, the initial plan was to have a discussion with you about what other health issues can stem from the relationship between GI problems, specifically hiatal hernia, and gum disease.

In the last installment, we provided some insight into  what a “hiatal hernia” is, in addition to,  the resulting development of a hiatal hernia, which allows stomach acid  to leak into areas of the throat and esophagus which were not designed for this abrasive and acidic substance.  At the end of the last installment, we stated that the plan for today’s blog post would be on the dangers of the development of a hiatal hernia.  In retrospect, it was felt that it would be more beneficial and educational to first go over what can cause the condition to develop.  By adding this information, it is our hope that  the foundation will be laid for the actual discussion of the dangers in our next installment.

That Being Said… Now for Some of the Causes of Hiatal Hernia

Let’s be clear …not every human being develops a hiatal hernia.  So why do some have them while others do not?  What causes a hiatal hernia to develop?  Our goal for today is to answer these questions.  While some of the below listed conditions, which are known to contribute to the development of hiatal hernia, are out of your control, some others are not.  Here are some of the more common causes of this GI problem:

  • As you age (an we all do), the esophageal sphincter begins to lose muscular tone, which increases its laxity – this is a part of the complex aging process over which you have no control
  • Also as you age, the muscle tone of the abdominal muscles also decreases and this increases their laxity – then, any increased intra-abdominal pressure can help a hiatal hernia to develop – examples of things which increase intra-abdominal pressures are  obesity or even pregnancy
  • Frequent bouts of vomiting and/or constipation coupled with the straining needed to pass a bowel movement and to eliminate the vomit are other contributors to development – the straining involved in these situations increase the intra-abdominal pressure  and can weaken the phrenoesophageal membrane (the thin tissue which seals the opening through which the esophagus passes through the diaphragm to allow food to pass into the stomach)
  • Ascites – this is an abnormally increased amount of fluid which has collected in the abdomen, usually a result of liver disease or failure – this also increases the intra-abdominal pressures to help push the stomach up into the esophagus, creating the hiatal hernia.

So, Really … Next Time the Dangers

Now that you are aware of some of the causes of the muscular laxity of the esophageal sphincter, you have a better basis for the discussion which we will have next time on why this condition can be dangerous for you and those you love.  Until then, please don’t put off that vital phone to schedule your first visit (or ongoing care) for a dental evaluation.  Dr. Scharf  wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island and, in that role, he can help to identify and treat gum disease in any stage of development in any member of your family.  Call him at (631) 661-6633, or visit him on the web at https:www.drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

 

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 4

Hello again to my returning readers!   It is our hope that you are  learning more about GI problems and gum disease  as well as enjoying reading this article series.  Today, our plan is to  continue with another installment in this article series with a discussion of a new subtopic,   the GI problem called Hiatal Hernia.  So, if you’ll follow along with me, we’ll begin!

First, Let’s Explain the Hiatal Hernia

For me,  the best way to begin this subtopic, or any topic for that matter,  is to get a better idea  of just exactly what a  “hiatal hernia” is.  This physical “beast” is a condition that dominates  so much of media advertising today, promoting ways to control the discomfort of the condition but providing little in the way of description of what they want you to treat.  So, today, we’re going to remedy that situation with a fairly simple discussion about  hiatal hernia, what it is and what it does in your body.  Hiatal hernia is a condition in which a part of the stomach pushes up through a small opening in the esophagus called the hiatus.  To understand the “hernia” part, let’s stop here and explain that whenever an internal body part thrusts itself into an area in which it does not belong, it is called a “hernia”.  Hence, the term “hiatal hernia” means that a part of the stomach has forced itself up through the hiatus opening in the esophagus, creating the “hernia”.

Now For What It Does

Again, to help you understand what is happening, let me share that the “hiatus” is a small opening in the esophagus which allows the food coming down the throat to enter the stomach as part of the digestive process.  When food travels down through the food pipe (throat) and enters the esophagus tube, there is a sphincter muscle which goes around the esophagus which relaxes to open, allowing the food to pass into the stomach through the hiatus opening.  This activity is accomplished by a mechanism in which the stomach moves up to meet the esophagus for the exchange of food for digestion.  The normal healthy sphincter muscle around the esophagus hiatus opening then closes or constricts, squeezing the stomach back down to its normal position. Hiatal hernia condition occurs when the stomach gets lodged into the hiatus opening and doesn’t return to its normal position — generally this is a direct result of the laxity of the sphincter muscle reducing its ability to squeeze the stomach back into its intended home in the body.  This allows the contents of the stomach, which includes the acid required for digestion, to escape upwards into the esophagus where it was never designed to go.

So, now that you know what a hiatal hernia is, don’t you feel smarter?  Next, you’ll need to know why it is so dangerous for various parts of your body, and that will be our focus for the next installment of this subtopic. So be sure to tune in again next week for …”the rest of the story”…  In the meantime, Dr. Scharf wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island.  In that role, he can help to identify gum disease as well as the more severe periodontal disease in any member of your family.  Call him at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel.

Are Your GI Issues Related to Gum Disease? Part 3

Hello again!  For those of you who are among my returning readers and who have been following this article series,  you know that we have been discussing gum disease and GI disease and the last installment was specific to the condition called GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease).  If you are a follower of this blog site,  you also know that Dr. Scharf is a licensed Periodontist in Long Island who strives to make available instructional information to my readers as well as my patients.  As promised last time, today it is my plan to discuss various issues which can cause the GERD condition to develop.

First, Let’s  Briefly Review

As you may recall from past installments of this series, GERD (a.k.a. Gastrointestinal Esophageal Reflux Disease) is caused by the laxity or loss of muscle tone in the lower esophageal sphincter.   As a result of this laxity , the sphincter becomes “floppy”, not fully closing and allowing the digestive acid produced in the stomach to get up into the esophagus to cause the burning discomfort associated with GERD.

Is This This Laxity Normal?

The quick answer is NO!  And here is why it is not normal.  While the deterioration of the muscle tone in the lower esophageal sphincter is not a  normal stage in the digestive process as designed by the Creator — it is pretty common, though generally acquired.  This means that it develops as a result of things we choose to do.  Here are some known contributors to your GERD symptoms:

  • Certain lifestyle activities – these activities include alcohol or cigarette use, obesity and poor posture (this refers to that slouching that your mom used to bring to your attention in your younger years)
  • Certain types of medications – these categories of medications include:
    • calcium channel blockers
    • beta blockers, theophylline (i.e. Tedrol, Hydrophed, Marax, Quibron)
    • nitrates
    • Antihistamines
  • Dietary behaviors – this includes consumption:
    • fried and fatty foods
    • chocolate, garlic and onions
    • caffeinated drinks
    • acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes
    • spicy foods
    • Mint flavorings
  • Certain eating habits – this includes eating large meals in general and/or eating just be going to bed
  • Other medical conditions and diseases – this can include hiatal hernia, pregnancy, diabetes and any rapid weight gain (and any condition which causes rapid weight gain)

Now … a Homework Assignment …

Yes, I said “homework” assignment!  We have just listed some external behaviors and activities are known to  contribute to GERD symptoms and discomforts.  We feel it is vital for you to understand that it isn’t just the discomfort which isn’t in your best interests, as that stomach acid is damaging other very important tissues and structures as it travels and frequently occupies spaces which were not designed for it.  It is our plan for the next installment in this series  to talk about the condition known as “hiatal hernia” since it is also very common, especially among those who have celebrated over 50 birthdays.  In the meantime, your “homework” assignment is to take note of how many of the above contributors are part of your life.  See how many of them you can change or eliminate, or how many you are willing to change or eliminate, for improved oral and overall general health.  Your second recommendation is to establish and maintain a regular routine regimen with a dental professional.  Dr. Scharf wants to be your Periodontist in Long Island and he can help you achieve this goal with evaluations and treatments for every member of your family.  Call him at (631)661-6633, or visit him on the web at https://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum and periodontal disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.