Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine. The structure and function of the small intestine is altered and this leads to the inability to properly absorb minerals, nutrients, and vitamins. When it strikes young children, it results in 'failure to thrive' and stunted growth. When adults are afflicted with this disease, it can cause diarrhea, anemia,osteoporosis,and fatigue. It is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins. Early diagnosis is critical because as soon as the wheat is eliminated from the diet, signs and symptoms disappear and the damage to the intestines and the bones will subside.
In April 2011, The Canadian Dental Association published the findings of a study done which confirmed the connection between Celiac Disease and dental health. 87% of children with celiac disease have dental enamel defects compared to only 33% of non-celiac kids. 42% of adults and kids with the disease have frequent bouts of canker sores in their mouths versus 22% of the non-celiac patients. A smooth, painful, red, and swollen tongue is also commonly found in celiac patients. Cracks and scaling around the lips and corners of the mouth are frequently found as well. A study published in the medical journal 'Gut' , found that celiac patients who did not follow a strict gluten-free diet, were at a greater risk of developing oral cancer than those patients who completely avoided gluten products.
The defects in the enamel of the teeth are probably caused by the body's inability to absorb the calcium and vitamin D that are so necessary for proper enamel formation. If the diagnosis is made at an early age and a gluten-free diet is implemented right away, damage to the adult teeth can be avoided.
Most dentists and physicians are unaware of the celiac - oral health connection according to Alexandra Anca, the scientific advisor for the Canadian Celiac Association's professional advisory board. If you or your child have 2 or more of the following oral signs, please bring it to the attention of your dentist and physician.
1. Dental enamel defects - grooved,pitted,misshapen,discoloured, and coloured patches on multiple teeth
2. Canker Sores - frequent and painful open sores on your gums, tongue, cheek, and floor of the mouth
3. Atrophic Glossitis - red, smooth, painful and swollen tongue
4. Cheilosis - cracks and scaling around the lips and corners of the mouth
5. Oral Lichen planus - white or red patches on the mucous membranes of the mouth
Dr. Brian Kaplansky