According to Health Canada, Celiac disease is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. The Canadian Celiac Association estimates that 1 in 133 Canadians have Celiac disease, but many people remain undiagnosed.
The reason most people remain undiagnosed is because Celiac disease symptoms often go unnoticed. People also tend to experience the symptoms differently. So how can you know if you suffer from this condition? Keep an eye on your oral health—dental problems might be the only indicator that you have Celiac disease.
Why Is Celiac Disease So Serious?
Most people associate Celiac disease with gluten allergies, failing to realize that the condition is far more serious. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine’s absorptive surface and creates a toxic reaction any time gluten enters the system. This reaction hinders the entire body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients, leading to a number of health complications.
Potential health problems include:
- Anemia, or low red blood cell count
- Radical changes in weight
- Constipation or chronic diarrhea
- Abdominal cramping and/or intestinal gas
- Extreme fatigue and/or weakness
- Infertility or miscarriages
- Severe headaches
- Unexplained neurological conditions, such as depression or a sudden lack of energy
If untreated, Celiac disease can lead to osteoporosis, gastrointestinal cancer, and a weakened immune system.
What Is Your Mouth Telling You about Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease doesn’t always manifest itself in the form of oral health problems. However, the following symptoms are some of the most common, easily recognized indicators of the condition.
Chronic or Recurrent Canker Sores
Recurrent aphthous stomatitis, or canker sores, tend to affect people throughout their entire lives. These small ulcers appear on the lips or inside the mouth and they often have a red border with a grey or white base.
Researchers have yet to find an exact cause for canker sores, although most think immune system disorders could be the culprit. Because Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, it could lead to canker sores.
Autoimmune diseases like Celiac tend to affect the entire body. For this reason, Celiac disease often leads to damaged or malformed teeth. Tooth defects are more common in children whose teeth are still developing. However, people of all ages should be on the lookout for these tooth problems:
- Visible blemishes, such as large pits or deep horizontal grooves.
- Minor structural defects, including shallow pits and rough enamel.
- Severe structural deformities, which could include misshapen teeth.
Tooth Enamel Deformities
Celiac disease can affect the appearance and colour of teeth, whether or not they have structural defects. Common tooth enamel deformities include:
- Tooth discolouration, either severe or mild: your teeth might turn brown, yellow, or develop spots.
- Pits, bands, or grooves on the teeth: you’ll be able to see and feel these deformities.
- Complete loss of enamel, making the teeth look translucent.
Dental enamel defects are often hard to distinguish from side effects of poor brushing. One thing to look for is symmetrical damage on either side of the mouth—Celiac disease-induced defects affect both sides of the mouth.
Delayed Tooth Eruption
Celiac disease often wreaks havoc on children’s teeth. Not only can it affect tooth appearance, it might also impede the development and growth of teeth.
- Your child should have a complete set of 20 baby teeth by age 3.
- Your child should start losing teeth by age 6. Baby tooth loss tends to continue for 4–6 years.
- Your child should have a complete set or 28 permanent teeth by age 12.
If you have a child and notice his or her teeth are growing in slower than usual, Celiac disease might be to blame.
Inflammatory Gum Disease
In most cases, a buildup of bacteria causes gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. But in some instances, a weakened immune system interferes with the mouth’s ability to clear away and fight plaque. This condition leads to frequent problems with gum disease, which is characterized by swollen, bleeding gums.
If extra brushing and flossing or special mouthwash haven’t helped you fight gingivitis, Celiac disease might be causing your problems.
Because Celiac disease keeps vital nutrients from your entire body, some essential functions deteriorate as a result. One function that tends to suffer is saliva production. The less saliva your mouth produces, the drier it becomes.
Dry mouth is problematic for several reasons:
- It leads to the development of sores and cuts in the mouth, as well as cracked, unhealthy lips.
- It allows harmful acids to stay on your teeth, leading to tooth decay and cavities.
- It increases your risk of developing gum disease.
- It causes bad breath.
Dry mouth can result from medications or other diseases, so be sure to talk to your dentist if you experience dry mouth in conjunction with other symptoms.
Celiac disease often causes nutritional deficiencies, which then create several problems throughout the body. One side effect of nutritional deficiencies is atrophic glossitis, characterized by smoothness or baldness of the tongue. This condition also causes soreness, inflammation, and/or tenderness of the tongue.
Celiac disease can lead to a variety of health complications, so you shouldn’t delay receiving a diagnosis. If you have any (or several) of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist at Woodcreek Dental Care right away.
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