Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease where the ingestion of gluten — a protein found in wheat and other grains like rye and barley — leads to damage of the small intestine. In fact, the Celiac Disease Foundation states that an estimated 1 in every 100 people worldwide is affected by gluten intolerance. But did you know that celiac disease can also impact your oral health? Learn about the oral manifestations of celiac disease, such as enamel defects, canker sores, and dry mouth, as well as tips for easing your symptoms.
Oral Manifestations of Celiac Disease: Enamel Defects, Mouth Sores and Dry Mouth
Those diagnosed with celiac disease at a young age may experience a disruption in enamel development that results in enamel defects in both primary and permanent teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), these enamel defects may appear as white, yellow, or brown discoloration. Poor enamel formation can also cause pitting or banding, giving teeth a mottled or even translucent appearance. Early diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease may decrease any future defects but, unfortunately, will not reverse defects already present. You may seek out cosmetic dental options — such as veneers or bonding — to improve the appearance of your teeth.
Recurrent aphthous stomatitis — more commonly known as canker sores or mouth ulcers — are another oral manifestation of 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. To minimize irritation, avoid spicy and acidic foods until your canker sores go away. If the sores are exceptionally large or painful, check with your dentist about prescribing a mouth rinse or topical anesthetic to ease your symptoms.
Studies show that up to 15 percent of those diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome — a condition that causes dry eyes and mouth — also have biopsy-proven celiac disease. Dry mouth can make those with celiac disease more susceptible to tooth decay and cavities because there is less saliva to wash away bacteria and food debris. If you have dry mouth, drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and use a humidifier while you sleep. Your dentist may be able to treat your symptoms with artificial saliva or prescription toothpaste.
If you suspect you have celiac disease based on oral or other clinical symptoms — such as skin rash, headaches, bloating, diarrhea, and fatigue — see your primary care physician to confirm a diagnosis. The ADA article linked above states that removing gluten from your diet should improve soft tissue oral manifestations such as canker stores. However, other effects, such as enamel defects and dry mouth, would need to be managed and treated by your dentist appropriately. Celiac teeth may require some extra attention, but if you follow these tips and work with a knowledgeable dental professional, you can keep your oral health in excellent shape.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.