Over 2 million Americans have Celiac Disease. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it is estimated that 1 in 133 Americans could have the disease without being aware of it. Celiac Disease doesn’t just affect your digestive tract; it can cause health problems everywhere, from your heart to your mouth.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease characterized by a reaction to gluten, a protein found primarily in wheat, barley, and rye. When a person living with Celiac Disease ingests gluten, it causes a painful immune response in the small intestine. This response damages the villi (small finger-like projections on the lining of the small intestine), designed to absorb nutrients. Over time, the lack of nutrient absorption causes damage to the intestine and leads to serious health complications.
If left untreated, possible health complications include (but are not limited to):
- Early onset osteoporosis
- Heart disease
- Pancreatic insufficiency
According to research, the disease tends to be prevalent in Caucasian people and those whose ancestors came from Europe. Patients with type 1 diabetes, Down syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and other autoimmune diseases are also more at risk.
Celiac Disease is genetic (it tends to run in families) and can present at any age, so if you display symptoms, it is vital to seek medical advice.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Celiac Disease vary significantly amongst patients. Common symptoms can include:
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation
- Repeated stomach pain or bloating
- Muscle Cramps
- Missed menstrual cycles
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Joint pain
Children who have Celiac Disease tend to present symptoms more centered around the digestive process.
How Does Celiac Disease Affect My Teeth?
Celiac Disease can affect your oral health from a young age. Children aged seven years and younger may develop enamel defects as their teeth and enamel are still developing. Celiac disease can also cause a delay in the development of the teeth and mouth. The frequent development of canker sores is a common indication of Celiac Disease in adults and children. Patients can suffer from Dry mouth syndrome, which can result in tooth decay and atrophic glossitis, a condition noted for a smooth, shiny, red tongue.
If left untreated, Celiac Disease can also lead to the development of pharyngeal, mouth, and esophageal cancers.
How can this be fixed?
Celiac Disease does not have a cure, but lifestyle changes allow most people to live symptom-free. Adopting a gluten-free diet is the only way to treat the disease, and it must be followed rigorously.
Where else is gluten found?
Patients adopting a gluten-free diet must know that gluten is found in many different foods, including soy sauce, salad dressings, condiments, french fries, grain-based alcohol, bouillon or soup mixes, imitation meat, and seafood. Additionally, gluten is also in certain medications. Because of the extensive list of non-gluten-free foods, your medical practitioner will likely advise you to consult a celiac disease specialist for assistance with a dietary plan.
A thorough oral examination allows dentists to diagnose Celiac Disease and refer you to a physician. If you think that you or your child has Celiac Disease, then make an appointment to come and see us at Cakmes Dental Studio in Knoxville, TN.