It’s estimated that one in about 100 people around the world suffers from celiac disease and many others that are not diagnosed. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is digested. The long-term result is intestinal damage that makes it difficult for the body to absorb needed nutrients.
In addition to adopting a gluten-free lifestyle, it’s important that celiac disease sufferers understand the effects of the disease on oral health.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, those who suffer from celiac disease are at an increased risk of several dental and mouth problems.
- Tooth Enamel: Celiac disease disrupts the proper formation of enamel on the teeth. For children, this is often an early indication that the disease is present. The defects tend to be symmetrical and can show up as grooves, horizontal lines, or discoloration. Adults diagnosed with celiac disease tend to have pitting or grooves in the teeth. Early diagnosis is key to help encourage or repair enamel formation.
- Dental Development: Undiagnosed celiac disease can cause children to experience delayed dental development. Baby teeth tend to be lost at a slower rate than those without celiac disease, and permanent teeth appear later than expected. The condition can also thwart the skeletal development of the facial bones including the jaw bone.
- Mouth Sores: A symptom of celiac disease is the recurrence of canker sores. These small ulcers show up in the mouth frequently for celiac disease sufferers and can be painful. While there are other underlying causes of canker sores, it is a common sign of celiac disease. Adherence to a gluten-free diet tends to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
- Cavities: Studies have shown that some children have a higher incidence of cavities (or dental caries) when celiac disease is present. It is believed this is due to the structural change of the enamel and chemical makeup of the developed teeth.
- Tongue: Some celiac disease sufferers experience a change in their tongue and other areas inside the mouth. It is believed that the resulting burning pain or dryness is because the body is not able to absorb certain vitamins and iron. Some mouth cancers result, however, this appears to be with people who do not adhere to an entirely gluten-free diet.
Celiac disease is life-changing, no matter at what age a person is diagnosed. If you suspect you, or someone you care about, is suffering from celiac disease, it’s important to see you physician for a complete assessment and diagnosis.
If you are dealing with celiac disease, contact us! We understand the effects on dental health and will work with you on your options about the good oral health steps you can take.