Although the main focus of Crohn’s disease surrounds the digestive system, it can affect the rest of the body in unexpected ways. Recently, I went to the dentist for a routine cleaning and was told a few teeth had problems. This did not surprise me.
I make a point of practicing good oral hygiene; I brush and floss daily. But for years I have had problems with brittle teeth and cavities. I’ve even had a few teeth break! This isn’t news I’d normally be eager to share, but I have met numerous people with Crohn’s who had similar problems and felt ashamed and alone.
There are many ways that Crohn’s can affect our oral health. Our lifestyles, diets, and medications play a part. Plus, our intestines don’t always absorb the nutrients and minerals needed for good overall health.
What we take leads to oral problems
We take medications to help slow the progression of our disease and to control the symptoms. The challenge comes when those medications cause a domino effect, creating a new set of problems. Antibiotics, corticosteroids, and biologics all affect oral care.
Corticosteroids are common medications used to treat the side effects of moderate to severe Crohn’s. Prolonged use of steroids leads to bone loss. This makes breaking or chipping teeth easier. Dry mouth from the use of medications leads to tooth decay and infection. Sipping water throughout the day helps. Your dentist also may suggest an artificial saliva product. Medications that suppress the immune system can lead to thrush, which is easily treated.
Any type of infection involving your oral health needs to be addressed. Left untreated, an oral infection could enter the bloodstream and lead to serious conditions.
Lack of nutrition plays a part
Crohn’s disease often gets in the way of the body’s ability to properly digest food and absorb the nutrients and minerals it needs to thrive. People with Crohn’s may experience malnutrition and anemia because of impaired absorption of vitamins B, D, folic acid, iron, and other nutrients. This can lead to serious oral health problems.
Oral symptoms of Crohn’s sometimes present before intestinal symptoms. A dental professional trained in signs of the disease can facilitate an early diagnosis.
Everyone’s treatment plan is different. If it’s difficult to get vitamins and minerals naturally through nutrition and sunlight, your doctor may approve of supplements. Work with your doctor to decide what’s best for you.
Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.