In the past few years, a protein called Gluten has become a star. It is all over the news and has become a common household word. Gluten-free cereals, snacks, and bread substitutes pepper the shelves of grocery stores. You almost can’t go out to eat without seeing “Gluten-free” options on the menu. People are talking about gluten, whether they really know what it is, or not. With all this talk, do any of us know what health issues accompany Celiac disease?
People with Celiac disease are unable to tolerate gluten. If they do eat it, “the gluten causes an immune response that results in the destruction of small protrusions that are located in the small intestine. The protrusions, called villi, allow the intestine to absorb nutrients that the body needs from the foods that are being digested. Because of the destruction of the villi, nutrients are unable to be successfully digested and a person can suffer from malnutrition.”
Found in wheat, oats, rye, and barley, this protein can cause many health complications for those with gluten sensitivities.
Symptoms of Celiac disease include abdominal cramping, intestinal gas, bloating, chronic diarrhea, constipation, fatty stool, anemia, unexplained weight loss with a large appetite and weight gain. Other symptoms include dental enamel defects, osteopenia, osteoporosis, bone or joint pain, fatigue, weakness, lack of energy, infertility, depression, mouth ulcers or canker sores, delayed puberty, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, and migraine headaches.
Gluten and Your Oral Health
Coping with Celiac disease means you need to alter your eating habits to exclude gluten. But due to the gastrointestinal side effects of the disease, your oral health can suffer. “Celiac teeth” are more likely to decay. Additionally, people with the condition are prone to canker sores, dry mouth, and oral cancer. Sometimes the presence of these dental abnormalities is an indication that a person has Celiac disease. Dentists can identify a gluten sensitivity due to brown/ yellow bands and spots on teeth. These appear when tooth enamel weakens. It has often been the case that a dentist pinpoints Celiac as the underlying cause of dental issues before there is a medical diagnosis.
“Recurrent canker sores or mouth ulcers are another nuisance for those with Celiac disease. These painful breakouts appear on the inside of your lips or cheeks, on your tongue, at the base of your gums or on the roof of your mouth. Research hasn’t yet proven what causes them in every case, though it may have something to do with the body’s immune system. No matter what the cause, avoid spicy and acidic foods that can irritate your mouth, instead eating simple, plain-flavored meals until your canker sores aren’t a bother to you anymore. If the sores are especially large or painful, check with your dentist about treating it with a prescribed medication.”
Chronic dry mouth is another symptom of Celiac disease. This condition, if left untreated, can increase the risk of cavities and tooth decay. Saliva plays a large role in keeping a healthy mouth. It washes away bacteria and food debris and cleanses the surface of our teeth. If you experience out of the norm dry mouth, talk to your dentist about ways to introduce moisture back into your mouth.
Dental abnormalities caused by gluten intolerance are most common “when children develop the disease as their permanent teeth are developing.” Delay in tooth eruption, reduced salivary flow, and weakened enamel are all attributed to Celiac disease in children. These abnormalities, and others, mostly affect permanent teeth.
Though children are highly vulnerable to tooth damage, most adults with Celiac disease will not notice any dental complications. This is in part due to teeth being fully developed before the onset of the condition.
Have you or your kids been diagnosed with Celiac disease? If you have any questions about what this condition means for your oral health, don’t be afraid to ask us.