Dear Doctor Jahn,
I want to get rid of acid reflux. In my case I am wondering if it is possible that wisdom teeth on only the bottom jaw can cause throat problems and reflux? I only have wisdom teeth on the bottom jaw and I’ve had problems with my throat closing when I sing solo and acid reflux ever since they started coming in.
The short answer is: acid reflux cannot be caused by erupting wisdom teeth. But let’s explore your symptoms – if you bear with me.
How was your acid reflux diagnosed? I ask, because reflux to the back of the throat (called LPR, or laryngopharyngeal reflux) shares its symptoms with other conditions. These symptoms are rather nondescript, and include discomfort, cough, throat clearing and excess mucus, even earache. My point is this: you may have symptoms such as pain in the throat or the ear from causes other than reflux, a diagnosis which is commonly, and not always accurately, made.
An erupting molar can cause earache, by pain referred along shared nerves; it can also cause you to change you pattern of chewing, and result in strain on the jaw joint (TMJ). Local irritation can also cause pain in the adjacent base of tongue and throat. Any irritation or muscle spasm in the area can cause increase muscle tone in the vocal tract, with an elevated larynx. This, in turn, can affect the voice, most specifically in the mix. So, if your vocal problems are in the mix (rather than the top), it may indirectly result from that erupting molar.
I suggest you take some antacid medications, both acid neutralizers and H1 blockers, to see if your voice improves. If not, I would question the original diagnosis of reflux. Then, try some analgesics, perhaps apply a topical anesthetic to the tooth area, or take a mild muscle relaxant to address the theory of muscle tension secondary to pain and irritation. If this works, then you have your answer.
-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)
This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.
Dr. Jahn is an internationally renowned otolaryngologist based in Manhattan with a sub-specialty interest in the professional voice. His practice includes classical and popular singers. He holds academic appointments at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. He is Medical Director at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and former Director of Medical Services at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Dr. Jahn has published several books for vocalists, including “Vocal Heath for Singers” (Singdaptive) and “The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health” (Oxford University Press).