When most people think of celiac disease, they think of digestive discomfort and weight loss. While these are often symptoms of gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity and overall celiac disease, some are surprised to know that there is a direct connection between celiac and oral health. In fact, many people will not present with the classic digestive symptoms that lead to a celiac diagnosis, but instead will present with oral health issues that are related to celiac disease. For these patients, a trip to the dentist is the first step in an accurate diagnosis.
Gluten and Enamel - Common Warning Signs of Gluten Issues
One of the first places your dentist may notice a problem with gluten is in your enamel. Poor enamel formation, pitting of the enamel and banding on the teeth can all be linked to gluten and celiac disease. In addition, translucent-looking or mottled teeth with symmetrical imperfections can point to problems. In severe cases, a patient may experience a complete loss of enamel as a result of celiac disease.
Unfortunately, these symptoms can mirror symptoms of other problems, which is why dental enamel defects alone cannot be used to diagnose celiac disease. Dentist may state that medications a mother took during pregnancy, illnesses early in life or too much exposure to fluoride caused the enamel defects. Many traditional dentists are not well informed about the connection between enamel and gluten sensitivity.
Typically, these enamel defects will develop when the permanent teeth are still growing, which is typically before the age of 7. This means that adults with celiac disease may not have the enamel defects, but can still have the disease if symptoms developed after the presentation of the permanent teeth.
Other Connections Between Gluten and Oral Health
While enamel issues are the most common symptoms of a gluten problem, other connections have been made between gluten sensitivity, celiac and oral health issues. Some of these include:
- Sensitive teeth
- Chronic dry mount
- Recurring canker sores or mouth ulcers inside the oral cavity
- Atrophic glossitis
- Cancers of the pharynx and mouth
If you or your child is struggling with any of these conditions, you may wish to talk to your doctor about testing for celiac disease. You can also follow a gluten-free diet for a few weeks and see if you notice any improvements.
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are highly complex conditions that often do not manifest as you think they should. Many patients suffer for years with symptoms before getting the help that they need simply because their symptoms are not typical of these conditions. If you suspect that you may be dealing with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, take the time to learn more about the connection between problems with the teeth and gluten sensitivity issues. With the right changes to your diet, your health, including your oral health, could improve drastically.