Can Celiac Disease Affect Your Oral Health?

People suffering from celiac disease are more prone to developing oral health problems which can range from dry mouth to weakened enamel. These telltale signs can easily alert you and your dentist of undiagnosed celiac disease.

In Canada, approximately 1% of the population are affected by celiac disease. However, the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation even states that 90% of celiac disease cases remain undetected. 

Find out how celiac disease can cause dental problems and what dental health care measures can be done.

What Is Celiac Disease?

A celiac’s body cannot handle gluten, which is found in food like pizza and bread

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s ability to process gluten. Caused by genetic and environmental factors, celiac sprue (as it is also called) triggers an immune response in your digestive tract. Gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley, when ingested could seriously damage the part of the small intestine called villi.

The villi, which are tiny hair-like structures in the linings of your digestive system, absorb nutrients from food. When impaired, it can lead to malnutrition and a decline in oral health.  Celiac disease can keep a person from absorbing enough vitamin D and Calcium which are vital for bone and tooth development.

Symptoms of Celiac Disease

The lack of nutrients can lead to cavities

Celiac disease has a broad range of symptoms that can vary from person to person.

For children and infants, digestive problems are more common. This can include:

  • abdominal bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • anemia (due to iron deficiency)
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • flatulence
  • constipation
  • lactose intolerance
  • chronic diarrhea
  • pale, loose, fatty, bulky, and foul-smelling stools
  • loss of weight
  • fatigue
  • irritability and behavioural problems
  • damage to the enamel of permanent teeth
  • slowed and/or stunted growth
  • delayed puberty

Adults experience fewer digestive symptoms. They are, however, more likely to experience:

  • anemia (due to iron deficiency)
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • bone or joint pain
  • arthritis
  • osteoporosis, osteopenia, (bone loss), osteomalacia (softening of the bone)
  • liver and biliary tract issues 
  • hyposplenism (reduced functioning of the spleen)
  • mental health problems depression or anxiety
  • seizures or migraines
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • canker sores inside the mouth
  • mouth ulcers
  • dermatitis herpetiformis 
  • damage to the nervous system (includes peripheral neuropathy, balance issues, and cognitive impairment)

Oral Manifestations of Celiac Disease

Teeth discolouration is one of its oral symptoms

Celiac disease has major oral health implications. What oral manifestations of celiac disease should you look out for?

  1. Stunted Dental Development
    If you notice that your child’s teeth are growing irregularly, take them to the doctor right away. Impaired teeth development is the result of a variety of ailments, one of which is celiac disease. Children suffering from this condition may have slower teeth growth compared to others. Their teeth may also be brittle due to enamel defects.
  2. Multiple Cavities and Canker Sores
    Bad teeth and cavities may be due to undiagnosed celiac disease. Treating it as ordinary tooth decay can cause more damage. Since these types of cavities are caused by Vitamin D and calcium deficiency, no matter how many times you get those teeth fillings and cleanings, cavities will still develop.

    Chronic canker sores are also a common manifestation of celiac disease. Often painful, these lesion-like inflammations can appear in the inside of your cheeks and lips, below the tongue, and at the base of your gums.

    These can impede one’s speech and eating experience, which makes it one of the most difficult oral symptoms of celiac disease. One way to remedy this is by swishing salt water in your mouth. However, the only permanent fix is to alter your lifestyle.

  3. Dry Mouth Syndrome
    Other minor symptoms of celiac disease are decreased activity in the salivary glands. This might not sound too serious but saliva is there to moisturize your mouth, protect your teeth, and encourage the growth of good oral bacteria. The lack of saliva secretions could cause increased sensitivity to plaque build-up, cavities, and bad breath.

    This oral condition is referred to as dry mouth syndrome. It can only be fought off by drinking lots of water and sticking to a healthy diet. Alternative solutions include saliva substitutes, better toothpaste, and keeping a humidifier.

  4. Enamel damage
    Enamel is a crucial chemical for oral development and teeth strengthening. However, people with celiac disease may develop yellow and brown spots on teeth. This is due to micronutrient deficiency. This enamel deficit can cause teeth bands, asymmetric grooves, and pitting.

    Deep grooves can come later during permanent teeth growth, so it’s harder to diagnose in children. A more serious enamel scarcity can generate a condition called “enamel hypoplasia” that can make someone’s teeth more prone to cavities and decay. This defect only affects still-developing teeth.

Treatment and Management of Celiac Disease

You need vitamins and supplements to compensate your body’s lack of nutrients

Here are a few tips on how to treat and manage celiac disease:

  1. Stick to a gluten-free diet
    One of the best ways to inhibit the symptoms of celiac disease is to stop consuming gluten. This entails a complete change in lifestyle and a dedication to eating what’s right for your body. Once you start with it you’ll have to avoid foods such as cereal, pasta, beer, processed meats, poultry, sweets, and many more.

    However, you cannot go on a self-appointed gluten-free diet right away. A confirmed diagnosis of celiac disease should be done first, followed by a visit to your dietician. This way, you’ll have a clearer list on the do’s and don’ts of the celiac disease diet.

    It is also important to note that dental defects caused by celiac disease will not suddenly disappear with a lifestyle change. You need your dentist to perform corrective oral treatments.

  2. Take vitamins and supplements
    Since one of the major effects of celiac disease on your body is hampering its ability to absorb nutrients, what you need to do is go for a more direct vitamin source. This means taking daily supplements for iron, fibre, calcium, zinc, magnesium, folate, and niacin. These are vitamins that are often found in gluten-rich food.

    You should also include Vitamin D, C, and E, but remember to get a prescription of gluten-free vitamin brands from your doctor.

  3. Consult with trusted physicians and dieticians
    Dieticians and physicians are your friends. For a person with celiac disease, you have to pay more attention to the food that you eat. This can be a tricky business since some products will include gluten in their ingredients. By consulting with experts, you can have a more informed list and make better decisions when you’re going grocery shopping.
  4. Educate yourself and your loved ones
    Having celiac disease will not only affect you but your family too. During get-togethers and family gatherings, you don’t want to be that one relative who avoids your grandma’s cooking. The only way to avoid that is to be open and tell them of your condition. Educate them on what you are going through, and your family will come out of it stronger and more understanding.
  5. Build a support network
    Support groups for people with celiac disease are there to provide information and care. They are non-profit organizations that can help you and your family cope better with your diagnosis. These organizations include the Canadian Celiac Association, Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, R.O.C.K., and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children: Celiac Support Group.
  6. Seek therapy if you need help with acceptance and coping
    Being diagnosed with celiac disease can turn your whole world upside down. You have to change your diet overnight and make you see the world differently. However, not everyone is capable of coping with such life-changing news. During these moments, psychotherapists are there to help you. Reach out to them for encouragement and support.

Oral Health Care for Celiac Patients 

Cosmetic dentistry can treat certain dental symptomsHere are some oral health care tips for those having celiac disease:

  • Drink adequate amounts of water

Mouth dryness or lack of oral moisture is one of the most common symptoms of celiac disease. To avoid teeth brittleness and cavity growth, drink plenty of water after every meal. Water helps your body cleanse itself and wash away the bacterial growth on your teeth and gums.

  • Avoid spicy and acidic food

Herbs and spices that give spicy dishes their tasty flavours and aroma are rich in gluten. They also have a more acidic nature, which can lead to enamel erosion and decay. Commercial hot sauces on the other hand also contain high amounts of sugar that can build up as plaque and lead to cavities. 

In addition, spicy foods rich in turmeric also contain tannins that can discolour one’s teeth. These types of stains are very difficult to remove and need professional dental cleaning.

  • Consider cosmetic dentistry

There is a broad range of corrective dental treatments you can opt for — from teeth whitening and dental crowns to dental implants clear aligners.

The only way to put a stop to celiac disease symptoms is to nip it at its source and aim for a gluten-free diet. However, you will never know that without a proper diagnosis. If you suspect you have celiac disease, talk to your dentist or doctor.If you have celiac disease and are in need of cosmetic dentistry treatments or teeth whitening near you, turn to Lakeside Family Dental. We offer a wide range of family and cosmetic dentistry procedures in Burlington, Canada. Call us now at (905) 637 0801 or email us at [email protected] for an appointment.

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