While many individuals put off their regular visits to the dentist, recent research has shown that the consequences of doing so might go beyond cavities and root canals. From diabetes to heart disease, poor oral health is often a reflection of a person’s overall health. In addition, poor health may even be the cause of systemic disease. According to stats, inflammatory bowel disease, also called IBD, includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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Surprisingly these diseases affect an estimated 3 million adults only in the USA, probably caused by poor oral health. Read to find out hoe Crohn’s disease can impact your oral health.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is primarily a chronic inflammatory condition of your gastrointestinal tract. This disease belongs to a group of conditions commonly known as inflammatory bowel diseases or IBD in short. 

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An autoimmune reaction in your body often triggers this disease. What happens in this condition is that your immune system mistakes the bacteria in your digestive tract. Thus causing your body to attack the healthy cells. As a result, the inflammation leads to diarrhea, fatigue,  stomach pains, or cramping. Overall your body does not feel well. 

Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose Crohn’s disease after carrying out multiple tests. Some of these tests include full blood work, MRI, CT scan, colonoscopy, endoscopy, fecal samples, and a few others.

A Good Dental Health Can Prevent Crohn’s Disease

Several studies have noted an emerging link in an overgrowth of foreign bacterial species in the guts of people with IBD. Many ask whether oral disease can affect the severity of gastrointestinal disorders? 

In the first study, periodontitis, or gum disease, often leads to an imbalance in the normal healthy microbiome found in your mouth. With an increase of harmful bacteria, it causes inflammation. These disease-causing bacteria then travel to your gut.

However, this alone might not be enough to set off gut inflammation. These oral bacteria may irritate gut inflammation by changing the oral microbiome. Hence gut health plays a very crucial role. The researchers also found that oral and gut inflammation can significantly increase weight loss and increase disease activity.

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In the second study, periodontitis activates your immune system’s T cells, especially in the mouth. These mouth T cells then travel to the gut, exacerbating inflammation. As a result, oral inflammation mainly generates inflammatory T cells that migrate to the gut quickly. Therefore it becomes essential to treat IBD to reduce the quality of life and eventual surgery.

Crohn’s Disease Treatment

Your doctor can treat Crohn’s disease in a couple of different ways, but ultimately there is no natural cure for this disease. There are many other medications available that can be prescribed for this disease. However, the side effects of these medications often have their risk factors. 

Most individuals who take medication to control Crohn’s disease still have surgery to improve their condition. Your doctor might perform three main surgeries to help manage Crohn’s disease. It includes small bowel resection, subtotal colectomy, and the most invasive is proctocolectomy – a removal of the entire colon and rectum.

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Research proves that nutrition and diet can help play a massive role in Crohn’s disease flare-ups. Being mindful of what patients must put in their bodies can help minimize the episodes. Certain foods and drinks like carbs, high fat,  and sugar might create inflammation and diarrhea with constant use. 

In addition, surgery and medication can not do so much for patients if they are unwilling to alter their daily dietary needs. Individuals can minimize episodes if they eat smaller meals, more times than three big meals a day.

Oral Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

There are many different oral symptoms this disease causes patients to experience when they are directly related to the disease. 

  • Aphthous ulcers are painful. Commonly known as canker sores or aphthous stomatitis; usually found in the oral cavity of a patient. 
  • Oral granulomatosis, swelling of the orofacial area, primarily the lips. However, this is not a common reaction.
  • Xerostomia, when the salivary glands in the oral cavity do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. Xerostomia often increases the risk of dental caries besides decay and halitosis.
  • Inflammation or abscess of salivary glands often occurs from xerostomia. The bacterial infection causes the gland to become infected and creates a painful lump in the gland.
  • Gingivitis is a non-destructive type of periodontal disease but needs urgent treatment.
  • Erythema, 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 that appears due to Crohn’s disease. They often seem like skin tags but occur in the mouth. They are usually found on the buccal mucosa, vestibule, or retromolar.
  • Deeply folded buccal or labial mucosa are other conditions that may occur.

Treatment for Oral Symptoms

Your doctor will prescribe a topical steroid, ointments, and vitamin supplements to treat these oral conditions discussed above. They may also recommend dry mouth products and medications to increase oral hygiene.

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In the case of root caries prevention, your dentist might approve fluoride rinses, at-home trays, and fluoride varnish treatments. However, it is essential to see your dentist for exams and prophylaxis.

Usually, a 3-4 month recall for prevention would be set up to help maintain your oral health and help with early detection. You might need tightened recall schedules if your oral hygiene is poor. Else it may lead to periodontal issues if not addressed early and their routine care is not altered.

Crohn’s disease is a condition most individuals suffer from. It is also a condition that goes undiagnosed in people for a long time. However, your dentist can easily detect one or more of these symptoms presenting in the mouth. They can help build integrated care and enforce the oral-systemic connection among their patients. This will help people overcome the oral issues caused due to Crohn’s disease. 

Oral Health Care Instructions

Your dentist can tailor the oral hygiene instruction based on your needs and issues. It is important to note that not every Crohn’s disease case will present itself the same way. Therefore, it is essential to treat every patient individually and not solely based on their diagnosis. 

If the individual has periodontal issues, your dentist might recommend the use of interdental brushes based on embrasure space size. In addition, they might combine that with mouthwash and regular brushing twice every day. 

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If the individual is suffering from caries and dry mouth; your dentist would approve a dry mouth product, fluoride varnish treatment and may be mouthwashes. All these treatments would help increase saliva production and maximize your enamel remineralization.

Many dentists also recommend baking soda-based toothpaste when patients have plaque and tartar control issues. Also, when they have a high caries risk and low saliva production. The baking soda will help neutralize the pH of saliva. Therefore, baking soda can minimize bacteria production because the bacteria do not have the ideal env to colonize and grow.

Water flossers and electric toothbrushes are other products that can be utilized for patient compliance. However, the efficacy of an electric toothbrush depends on its usage. Meaning that the patient will have the patience to place the toothbrush in the same spot long enough to do its job.

Many struggle using the electric brush or are not aware of the correct method of using the electric brush. Likewise, patients also face problems and complain about using a water flosser. Water flossers are great for patients who often refuse to floss. 

Lack of Nutrition Plays a Part in Crohn’s Disease  

Crohn’s disease can often get in the way of your body’s ability to digest food properly. In addition, the condition can also help absorb the nutrients and minerals it needs to thrive. Individuals with Crohn’s might experience malnutrition and anemia primarily because of impaired absorption of vitamins D, B, iron, folic acid, and other essential nutrients. This could lead to serious oral health problems.

Your oral symptoms of Crohn’s may sometimes present before intestinal symptoms. Only your dentist trained in signs of the disease could facilitate an early diagnosis.

However, 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.

Final Thoughts

Besides seeking immediate relief, you should look at the big picture. Try to work on controlling Crohn’s – to prevent flares and, in turn, on your mouth problems, which should be your ultimate goal. 

Also, stick to your Crohn’s treatment plan and focus on a diet that provides balanced nutrition. If you are not sure if you are getting the most nutrition from the foods you normally eat, talk to your doctor or your dietitian. Remember that your oral health is closely linked to Crohn’s disease.

Finally, as part of living a healthy Crohn’s lifestyle, always drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated. Also, avoid greasy and fried foods, and eat smaller meals but with more frequency that makes you feel better. If your mouth problems persist, ask your doctor if vitamin supplements help you get all the nutrients your mouth and body need to stay healthy.