You know your smile faces threats from every direction: coffee stains, cavities, and sensitivity, just to name a few. But you may not realize that a gluten intolerance known as Celiac disease may pose the biggest threat of all. What exactly is Celiac disease, and how can you protect your smile against its side effects?
What Is Celiac Disease?
Your immune system is designed to work with your body to protect against foreign invaders, but for people with Celiac disease, that’s not always the case.
Celiac disease is a severe autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack itself as soon as gluten enters the digestive system. Gluten is a common protein found in barley, wheat, and rye. Most people without Celiac disease can digest gluten without any problems. However, inside the bodies of the two million Americans with Celiac disease, gluten is interpreted as a foreign invader.
This triggers a strong immune response that attacks the small intestine every time gluten enters the body. These attacks make it harder for the small intestine to absorb essential nutrients. Over time, untreated Celiac disease creates serious health complications:
- Two times greater risk of coronary artery disease
- Four times greater risk of small bowel cancers
- Development of other autoimmune disorders like type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
Unfortunately, the later that Celiac disease is diagnosed, the more damage it causes. Toddlers diagnosed with Celiac disease have a 10% chance of developing another autoimmune condition, while adults diagnosed with Celiac disease for the first time have more than a 30% chance of developing another autoimmune disease.
Signs You May Be at Risk of Celiac Disease Damage
Given the serious nature of Celiac disease, there’s great power in early diagnosis and treatment. The following symptoms, especially when they occur together, may indicate Celiac disease:
- Loose, watery stool on a regular basis
- Bloating due to inflammation in the digestive tract
- Excess gas, especially after gluten consumption
- Severe fatigue
- Sharp drop in weight
- Iron-deficiency anemia due to impaired nutrient absorption
- Constipation due to poor nutrient absorption and dehydration
- Itchy, blistering skin rashes
Although Celiac disease currently has no cure, it can be treated by sticking to a firm gluten-free diet. This involves cutting out pasta, bread, cakes, crackers, cookies, beer, sauces, and all other foods and beverages that contain wheat, barley, rye, or spelt. Even cross-contaminated foods like oats are culprits unless specifically labeled gluten-free.
Adopting a gluten-free diet isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort. Especially when you consider the top five oral health risks for people with Celiac disease.
The 4 Top Oral Health Risks For People With Celiac Disease
Celiac disease damage isn’t limited to the digestive system. Since the digestive system and the mouth are closely intertwined, Celiac disease is known to cause major oral health problems as well.
Identifying the signs of Celiac disease in the mouth is one of the most powerful ways to diagnose the condition when it would otherwise be overlooked or confused with a different health problem.
If Celiac disease develops when a child’s permanent teeth are still developing- usually before the age of 7- dental enamel defects are likely to occur. These enamel defects aren’t random. In fact, they’re predictable and easy to identify from their bilateral, symmetrical, and white or yellow hues. The worst enamel damage causes visible structural defects and may even change the shape of the teeth altogether.
Research indicates that Celiac disease triggers this enamel damage due to an immune reaction that affects the cells that form enamel. People who develop Celiac disease as adults usually avoid enamel defects since their adult teeth grow in without interference from autoimmune reactions.
Delayed Dental Development
Celiac disease can also be identified in children based upon delayed dental development. Young children with Celiac disease are more likely to lose their baby teeth long after their peers. Their permanent teeth also erupt much later than usual.
Excessive Tooth Decay
Celiac disease compromises the chemical composition of primary teeth in young Celiac disease patients. This chemical change makes children with Celiac disease vulnerable to cavities and dental caries. As Celiac disease prevents the gut from absorbing nutrients, the teeth lose important minerals like calcium and phosphorous. It’s much easier for cavities to develop in teeth after minerals are leached away.
Frequent Canker Sores
Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are well-documented oral manifestations of Celiac disease in children and adults alike. Research suggests that canker sores are more common in patients with Celiac disease due to deficiencies in iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12.
Even though canker sores are benign themselves, they’re painful and inconvenient side effects of Celiac disease. A strict gluten-free diet is the only evidence-based solution for canker sores and other Celiac disease symptoms.
Take Control of Your Celiac Disease Now
Celiac disease is a lifetime condition, but that doesn’t mean it has to control you! If your dentist notices signs of Celiac disease at your next appointment, or if some of the common Celiac disease symptoms sound too familiar for comfort, it’s time to take action.
Educate yourself on the foods and beverages that include gluten, and start cutting them out of your diet. Without gluten constantly entering your digestive system and wreaking havoc, your small intestine will have the opportunity to heal. Symptoms disappear quickly once your body is completely free of all traces of gluten.
It’s also important to use vitamins and dietary supplements to overcome the nutritional deficiencies associated with Celiac disease. Fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D are just a few of the essential nutrients your body may be lacking. Without them, your internal systems can’t operate at full capacity or supercharge your healing process.
Your doctor will guide you through the other tests, screenings, and exams recommended for all Celiac disease patients. Make sure you also talk to your dentist and take preventative measures to protect your teeth from the effects of Celiac disease.
At Ablantis Dental in Encinitas, California, Dr. Claudia Cortadi and her team are here to give you the personalized care you need to maintain a bright, healthy smile. Call 760.334.0128 or book an appointment to learn more now.