Celiac Disease and Oral Health

By Dr. LouAnn Visconti, President of the Ontario Dental Association

Taking care of your teeth can be a challenge for people in the best of health but for those with medical conditions or diseases, having a good dental care routine is essential to preventing further problems from developing.

One issue people with celiac disease can experience is being less able to absorb the minerals and nutrients that are essential for developing bones and teeth. Although the disease can develop at any age, if it occurs in children younger than age 7, when permanent teeth are developing, there can be defects to the dental enamel. The number of teeth affected is also strongly linked to factors that include the age at which a gluten-free diet is started.

Some research suggests children with celiac disease are at a higher risk of getting cavities. This may be related to the inability to fully absorb calcium and other key minerals. Another issue that can affect dental health is recurring canker sores and a dry or burning sensation on the tongue because of difficulties absorbing Vitamin B-12, folate and iron.

One of the best ways to deal with these symptoms is the early diagnosis of celiac disease and the implementation of a gluten-free diet, which has been shown to greatly reduce the severity of some of these dental issues by allowing the body
to absorb essential vitamins and minerals.

Most people wouldn’t realize that the dental office actually has supplies that may contain gluten. This can include dental products such as the paste used to polish teeth after a cleaning, fluoride, topical local anaesthetic, gloves and even orthodontic retainers.

It’s critical for people of all ages with celiac disease to maintain a regular dental care routine and that includes the basics like brushing at least twice a day and flossing on a daily basis. Just keep in mind that dental care products commonly used at home, such as toothpaste, floss and even mouth rinses can also contain gluten and if ingested, could result
in heightened symptoms of celiac disease.