Many people put off their regular visits to the dentist, but recent research has shown that the consequences of doing so may go beyond tooth cavities and root canals. From heart disease to diabetes, poor oral health is often a reflection of a person’s overall health. Moreover, poor health may even be the cause of systemic disease. According to stats, inflammatory bowel disease, also known as IBD, includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Surprisingly these diseases affect an estimated 3 million adults only in the US, solely caused by poor oral health. Read to find out how Crohn’s disease can affect your oral health.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
A chronic inflammatory condition of your gastrointestinal tract or GI tract is called Crohn’s disease. This disease belongs to a group of conditions commonly known as inflammatory bowel diseases or IBD.
Any sort of autoimmune reaction in the body often triggers this disease. What happens is that your immune system mistakes the bacteria in your digestive tract. In the process, your immune system starts attacking the healthy cells. Finally, the inflammation leads to diarrhea, fatigue, stomach pains, or cramping. Overall your body does not feel well.
Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis
After carrying out multiple tests, your doctor can diagnose Crohn’s disease. Some of these tests include full blood work, CT scan, MRI, colonoscopy, endoscopy, fecal samples, and a few others.
A Good Dental Health Can Prevent Crohn’s Disease
Several studies have confirmed an emerging link in an overgrowth of foreign bacterial species in the guts of people with IBD. Many people ask whether the oral disease can affect the severity of gastrointestinal disorders?
The first study studied that gum disease or periodontitis often leads to an imbalance in the normal healthy microbiome found in your mouth. The increased number of harmful bacteria causes inflammation. After that, these disease-causing bacteria travel to your gut.
However, this condition alone may not be enough to alleviate gut inflammation. These oral bacteria might irritate gut inflammation as they change the oral microbiome. Therefore, gut health plays a very vital role. The researchers also found that gut inflammation and oral problems can significantly increase weight loss and disease activity.
The second study studied periodontitis activates on your immune system’s T cells, especially in the mouth. These mouth T cells then travel to the gut, giving rise to inflammation. Finally, it was studied that oral inflammation mainly generates inflammatory T cells that often migrate to the gut. Therefore it becomes important to treat IBD to increase your quality of life and eventually avoid surgery.
Crohn’s Disease Treatment
Your doctor may treat Crohn’s disease in a couple of different ways, but ultimately there is no permanent natural cure. There are many other medications available that might be prescribed for this disease. But the side effects of these medications often have their risk factors.
Most people who take medication to control Crohn’s disease may still have surgery to improve the condition. Your doctor may perform three surgeries to help manage Crohn’s disease. They include small bowel resection and subtotal colectomy. The third most invasive is proctocolectomy, which removes the entire colon and rectum.
Research proves that both diet and nutrition can help play a massive role in Crohn’s disease flare-ups. One needs to be mindful of what patients must put in their bodies as it can help minimize the episodes. Certain foods and drinks like high fat, carbs, and sugar may create inflammation and diarrhea with constant use.
Surgery and medication might not do so much for patients if they are unwilling to alter their daily dietary needs. However, people can minimize episodes if they eat smaller meals, more times in a day than three big meals a day.
Oral Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
When people are directly related to the disease, they experience many different oral symptoms.
- Aphthous ulcers are usually painful. Commonly known as canker sores or aphthous stomatitis – they generally develop in the oral cavity.
- Oral granulomatosis – occurs when there is swelling of the orofacial area, primarily the lips. However, this is not a commonly observed reaction.
- Xerostomia – occurs when the patient’s salivary glands in the oral cavity do not produce enough saliva to keep their mouth moist. Xerostomia can increase your risk of dental caries besides halitosis and decay.
- Inflammation or abscess of salivary glands may also occur from xerostomia. The bacterial infection may cause the gland to become infected, thus creating a painful lump. The patient may also suffer from gingivitis, a non-destructive periodontal disease but often needs urgent treatment.
- Erythema is a condition when the gingival tissue appears irritated and with general redness.
- Cobblestone appears when buccal mucosa has multiple bumps lining the tissue.
- Mucosal tags are a common condition in people who have Crohn’s disease. They often look like skin tags but occur inside the mouth. You can find them on the buccal mucosa, retromolar, or vestibule.
- Deeply folded buccal or labial mucosa are other conditions that might also occur.
Treatment for Oral Symptoms
As part of the treatment, your doctor will prescribe a topical steroid, ointments, and vitamin supplements to treat the oral conditions. Your doctor might also recommend dry mouth products and medications to increase oral hygiene.
In the case of root caries prevention, your dentist may approve fluoride rinses and at-home trays. They may even approve fluoride varnish treatments. However, it is important to see your dentist for exams and prophylaxis.
A 3 to 4-month recall for prevention will be set up to help maintain your oral health and help with early detection of the problem. You may even need tightened recall schedules if your oral hygiene is poor. If not addressed early, it may lead to periodontal issues.
Crohn’s disease is a condition many people suffer from. It is also a condition that often goes undiagnosed in individuals for a long time. But your dentist can easily detect one or more such symptoms present in your mouth. Your dentist can help build integrated care and enforce the oral-systemic connection among patients. It will help you overcome the oral issues caused due to Crohn’s disease.
Oral Health Care Instructions
Your dentist might tailor the oral hygiene instruction based on your issues and needs. You need to note that not every Crohn’s disease case will present itself in the same way. Therefore, treating every patient separately and solely based on the diagnosis becomes important.
Your dentist may suggest using interdental brushes based on embrasure space size if the person has periodontal issues. Moreover, they may combine that with mouthwash and regular brushing at least twice daily.
If the individual is suffering from dry mouth and dental caries; your dentist may approve a dry mouth product, fluoride varnish treatment, and mouthwashes. All these treatments focus on increased saliva production, thus maximizing your enamel remineralization.
Many dentists might also recommend baking soda-based toothpaste when patients have plaque and tartar control issues. Such toothpaste is also recommended when they have a high caries risk and low saliva production.
Baking soda is beneficial in neutralizing the pH of saliva. Therefore, baking soda can minimize bacteria production because the bacteria do not have the ideal env to colonize and grow.
Electric toothbrushes and water flossers are other products that you can utilize for compliance. However, the efficacy of an electric toothbrush solely depends on its usage. You should have the patience to place the toothbrush in the exact location long enough to do its job.
Many people often struggle while using the electric brush or are not aware of the correct method of using it. Likewise, people also face problems and complain about using a water flosser. Note that water flossers are great for people who often refuse to floss.
Lack of Nutrition Plays a Part in Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease might often get in your body’s ability to digest food properly. Moreover, the condition may also help absorb the nutrients and minerals it needs to thrive. Patients with Crohn’s may experience malnutrition and anemia solely because of impaired absorption of folic acid, vitamins D, B, iron, and other essential nutrients. Their lack might lead to serious oral health problems.
Your oral symptoms of Crohn’s may sometimes present before your intestinal symptoms. In such a scenario, your dentist trained in signs of the disease may facilitate an early diagnosis.
But you need to understand that every person’s treatment plan is different. If it is challenging to get vitamins and minerals naturally through nutrition and sunlight, your doctor may recommend supplements. Work with your doctor or dentist to decide what is best for you.
Besides only seeking immediate relief, you must look at the big picture. You must also work on controlling Crohn’s – to prevent flares and other mouth problems. It should be your ultimate goal.
Additionally, stick to your Crohn’s treatment plan and continue taking a balanced nutrition diet. If you are not sure if you are getting all the nutrients from the foods you usually eat, discuss with your doctor or your dietitian. Note that your oral health is directly linked to Crohn’s disease.
As part of living a healthy Crohn’s lifestyle, you should try drinking plenty of water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated. Also, avoid greasy, oily, and fried foods, and eat smaller meals but with more frequency. It would make you feel better. If your oral problems persist, ask your doctor to prescribe vitamin supplements to help you get all the nutrients your mouth and body need to stay healthy.