Celiac disease is one of the most common digestive disorders experienced by a vast population in the United States. 

According to a recent study, one among every 141 American has celiac disease. Often this disease is left undiagnosed.

Celiac disease is a type of digestive disorder in which the individual cannot tolerate gluten. Traditionally, it means having a wheat-free diet.

People who have celiac disease suffer from many gastrointestinal problems. Such problems make the teeth more prone to tooth decay.

Some of the common dental issues that are caused by the celiac disease are dry mouth, mouth sores and in extreme cases, oral cancer.

It is essential to identify such symptoms at an early stage and treat the underlying cause.

In this article, we will discuss what celiac disease is, its effects on our oral health and how we can manage the symptoms.

What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a gastrointestinal disorder which occurs as an intolerance to gluten. Gluten is a protein, commonly found in wheat, rye, and barley. (1)

When a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, the intolerance prompts an immune reaction. This immune reaction attacks the lining of the small intestine.

Such series of actions destroy the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients from the ingested food causing malnourishment.

Celiac disease is fairly a common disorder and affects about 1% of the world’s population.

What causes celiac disease?

Celiac disease is often inherited from family members. (2)

However, other factors may also cause celiac disease –

  • A major surgery
  • Severe viral infections
  • Emotional stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth

What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

Both children and adults are affected by celiac disease. The symptoms differ in each one of them. It depends on the age, the severity of the disease and the presence of associated disorders.

Young children may experience the following symptoms –

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fatty stools that have a strong and foul odor
  • Delayed growth
  • Late puberty
  • Irritability

Symptoms of celiac disease in adults are slightly different as compared to those in the children. Celiac disease in adults mainly affects nutrition. Some common symptoms include –

  • Felling od depression, anxiety, and fatigue
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skin irritation
  • Mouth sores
  • Infertility
  • Skin rash

What effects does celiac disease have on our oral health?

Consequences of celiac disease also affect the oral tissues. There are three significant effects that celiac disease has on oral health –

Damage to the tooth structure

Development of white, yellow and brown spots on the surface of the teeth is a common dental representation in a person who has celiac disease.

The nutritional imbalance caused by celiac disease makes the enamel thin, brittle, pitted and translucent. Moreover, the enamel forms white or yellow opacities with horizontal lines or grooves. These characteristics are often bilateral and symmetrical. (3)

The dental effects of celiac disease are irreversible and may require professional attention. Cosmetic dental procedures are the main line of treatment to restore dental defects.

Chronic mouth sores

Canker sores or mouth ulcers are a common oral representation of celiac disease. These breakouts commonly form on the lips, corners of the mouth, tongue, and floor of the mouth. (4)

Mouth sores are extremely painful and cause a lot of discomforts. Spicy and acidic food aggravates the pain.

Prescribed medications and diet modifications help to relieve some of the discomfort caused by the ulcerations and mouth sores.

Dry mouth

Dry mouth is a common oral representation of celiac disease. Dry mouth further compromises oral health by making the teeth susceptible to caries and cavities. (5)

Lack of saliva increases the formation of plaque and allows the bacteria to cause tooth decay. In such cases, drinking plenty of water may help to keep the mouth clean.

Good oral healthcare regime and use of salivary substitutes can take you a long way in avoiding the effects of dry mouth.

How can you identify celiac mouth sores?

Celiac mouth sores are also known as canker sores. Canker sores, clinically resemble aphthous ulcers in the mouth.

Celiac mouth sores appear in different forms and may last from a week to several months. Three distinct characteristics of celiac mouth sores can help you to identify them easily –

  • They present as whitish sores on the surface of the tongue and lining of the cheeks
  • Presence of a visible enamel defect
  • Presence of associated symptoms like skin rash, frequent headaches, fatigue, bloating and diarrhea

What is the treatment?

Treatment of celiac disease generally helps to subside all of its symptoms. It is essential to identify and treat the disease at an early stage.

Most of the times, nutritional therapy can suffice to recover from the celiac disease. In severe cases, patients may require intravenous delivery of nutrients to overcome the intestinal damage.

Oral symptoms such as mouth sores can be treated by using an alcohol-free mouth rinse that is specifically made to treat oral ulcerations.

Diet modifications help to avoid spicy food that may irritate oral ulcers. Cutting down gluten from the diet diminishes the effects of celiac disease on the body.

Tooth decay and enamel damage can be treated by cosmetic dental procedures like composite restorations, crowns, veneers, and dental bridge.

Take away message

Celiac disease is a type of gastrointestinal disorder that can affect anyone at any point in life. The key to living a healthy life is to detect the symptoms at an early phase.

Proper nutrition maintains the health of the mouth and the body. It is, therefore, essential to keep a check on any nutritional deficiencies and identify the cause of it.

Celiac disease often affects the oral health of both children and adults. A dentist can help to diagnose the oral conditions and point out the underlying cause.

Although oral defects can be prevented by early detection of celiac disease, specific cosmetic dental procedures can help to restore your smile.

Some of the common dental issues that are caused by the celiac disease are dry mouth, mouth sores and in extreme cases, oral cancer.