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Celiac Disease and Dental Issues

provided by: David DiGiallorenzo

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that damages the villi of the small intestine when gluten is ingested. When gluten is ingested it triggers an autoimmune response in which the body attacks the small intestine. This negative response also prevents nutrients from absorbing into the body. As a result, the body is not able to get the nutrients it needs to stimulate growth and sustain organ function, which can lead to malnourishment. If celiac disease is left untreated other complications like osteoporosis, cancer and thyroid disease can occur. One of the ways to begin the diagnosis of celiac disease is through an oral exam and consistently checking for changes in tooth enamel and appearance.

Signs and Symptoms

Celiac disease can present itself through a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms of celiac disease are fatigue, constipation, depression, bloating, discolored teeth, pale mouth sores, joint pain and diarrhea. Since celiac disease prevents absorption of nutrients to the body, stunted growth is another classic symptom in children and adolescents. Many symptoms of celiac disease manifest themselves in the oral cavity of its patients. Signs of celiac disease can vary from person to person and can mirror the symptoms of other illnesses which can lead to many misdiagnoses.


Celiac disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to many other diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and lactose intolerance. One of the more effective ways to diagnose celiac disease is for doctors to conduct a blood test to see how the body reacts to gluten. Another option to test for celiac disease is for doctors to take a biopsy from the small intestine to see if the villi are damaged from gluten ingestion.


It is not entirely known what causes celiac disease but researchers believe that there is a genetic link and that certain people are predisposed to getting the disease. Celiac disease can occur in people of all ages but may not become apparent until a “trigger” sets it off. Researchers have identified some triggers that can activate the disease. Celiac disease can be triggered by stress, infections or the increased intake of wheat, barley and rye. If left untreated patients with celiac disease can develop osteoporosis, cancer and permanent dental deformities.


There is no known cure for celiac disease. However, the best treatment for patients is to change their diet by completely cutting out gluten. Even a small amount of gluten can be harmful to patients with celiac disease as it can hinder the healing process of the villi. It is easier to abstain from eating gluten since there are a wide variety of gluten free products on the market today. Once the patient cuts out gluten from their diet, their small intestine should begin to heal. Vitamin supplements are also recommended courses of treatment to prevent malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies.

Dental Issues

Celiac disease can cause a wide variety of dental issues. The most common issues resulting from celiac disease are the discoloring of teeth to a brown or yellow, banded teeth, ulcers and canker sores. Celiac disease can also hinder the formation of enamel so teeth may look clear or translucent. These symptoms mainly appear on the molars or incisors and these effects are permanent. While dentists cannot reverse the effects of celiac disease on the teeth they can cosmetically repair them.

Dental effects from celiac disease can mirror the effects from too much fluoride or poor oral health. It is important that dentists are made aware of celiac disease symptoms to avoid misdiagnosing their patients. If a dentist or patient is noticing oral abnormalities or the thinning of teeth enamel, they should be tested for celiac disease. Examining teeth for abnormalities every 6 months can be the first step towards diagnosing celiac disease and preventing further damage.