What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac is an autoimmune disease that affects 1 to 4 percent of the U.S. population. Not only does celiac disease shorten the lifespan of those affected, it also increases your risk of developing other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Cancer incidence also increases with celiac disease. (living-gluten-free.com)
Approximately 90 percent of all people with celiac disease have tooth enamel defects.
Gluten and the Autoimmune Body
Those with celiac disease can’t digest and process gluten properly–this is called gluten intolerance. When gluten-intolerant people still continue to eat gluten, they experience bone-related issues such as:
osteoporosis and osteopenia (porosity of the bones);
bone loss throughout the body and in the mouth particularly lower jaw
loss or thinning of tooth enamel.
Celiacs also experience abscesses and other root problems, tooth decay and fractured, broken, loose or missing teeth.
Tooth enamel defects in particular, can be used as an indicator to dentists and physicians that a person has celiac disease meaning gluten intolerance can also be identified in children. It is not uncommon for a person to be told of the possibility of them having celiac disease by a dentist following an oral examination. The dentist is often the one to make the first recommendation that a patient see a gastroenterologist.
How does gluten affect the teeth?
When celiacs eat gluten, the body’s immune system reacts against one of the main proteins responsible for production of enamel. This can happen in-utero as well. This lack of enamel or poor quality of enamel can leave a person with celiac disease more prone to cavities, excessive tooth wear and tear, and the eventual premature destruction or loss of teeth.
Because of the effect on tooth enamel, celiacs experience tooth decay and other tooth-related problems far more than non-celiacs even if they have practiced good oral hygiene habits and see a dentist regularly.
Regular check-ups involve looking for:
tooth discoloration such as white, yellow, or brown spots on the teeth
poor enamel formation including pitting or banding of teeth, and mottled or translucent-looking teeth.
These imperfections are symmetrical and most commonly affect the incisors and molars. They are common defects in people with celiac disease, although not all tooth enamel defects are caused by celiac disease.
Other Oral Conditions Linked to Gluten-intolerance
Studies have shown that gluten-intolerance and even gluten sensitivity can lead to other oral diseases. These include:
Geographic tongue (the surface of the tongue looks like a topographical map)
Tonsilar stones or exudates (white lumps of puss embedded in the tonsils)
Chronic severe redness in the back of the throat (Pharyngeal Erythema)
Excessive mucus production so that a person chronically needs to clear their throat
A small cyst on the frenum (the flap of skin connecting your top lip to your gums)
Metallic taste in your mouth
Gum disease (periodontal disease).
While research still needs to be done to find out exactly how gluten-intolerance and these oral conditions are connected, celiacs and those with gluten sensitivities need to discuss any tooth enamel issues with us at Choice Dental. It may just be that you’re not aware of any gluten issues until you visit us.
It’s not uncommon for the dentist to be the first line of defense, examination and diagnosis for many conditions. Many people are unaware of how their lifestyle choices, or physiological conditions affect the conditions in their mouth. Since gluten-intolerance and sensitivity can affect other bodily systems, it is important that the possibility of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity be explored to prevent further damage. Studies have shown that once consumption of gluten has stopped, the body can repair itself. Although enamel cannot grow back once lost, bone density and quality of dentin does improve which means better support, healthier teeth and a healthier mouth.