According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, 1 in 100 Americans is living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis (UC), which are often referred to together as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The Foundation observed Crohn’s and Colitis awareness week from December 1st-7th this year, so we at American Dental felt this was the perfect time to discuss the link between Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and oral health issues.
What are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?
Inflammatory bowel diseases are autoimmune disorders that cause the immune system to attack the lining of the intestines and other parts of the digestive tract. Both Crohn’s and UC can cause severe diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, fever, and fatigue. In children, Crohn’s and UC can also affect their growth and development. While Crohn’s and UC primarily affect the intestines, they can also affect any part of the digestive tract, including the mouth and gums. Those with IBD may not have symptoms all the time, but they can flare up, suddenly becoming severe over a short period of time.
Crohn’s, UC, and Oral Health Issues
Because the mouth and gums are part of the digestive tract, IBD symptoms may affect them as well. Crohn’s disease in particular can cause inflammation of the gums, and the body’s immune response can weaken the structures that support the teeth. Those living with Crohn’s often develop mouth sores. When mouth sores and other symptoms like bleeding gums are present, bacteria have an easier time infecting the gums and mouth tissues. The weakened immune system associated with IBD can make it difficult to heal from infections, as can the malnutrition that comes from IBD’s intestinal symptoms. As a result, those living with Crohn’s Disease are significantly more likely to have decayed, missing, or filled teeth, and although UC does not present the same risk to the teeth, IBD patients are much more likely to develop oral health problems than those without IBD.
Caring for Your Teeth with Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis
If you are living with any type of IBD, it is important that you inform your dentist about the issues you are experiencing so you can work together to develop a treatment plan. Taking excellent care of your teeth and gums becomes even more important because of the increased risk of tooth damage and gum infections. Be sure to brush your teeth twice every day, floss once a day (or as needed after meals), and use an American Dental Association-approved mouthwash. You should also be certain to visit your dentist every six months, or more frequently if you experience oral IBD symptoms during a flare.
At American Dental, we will be happy to discuss your Crohn’s and UC symptoms with you and give you all the tools you need to keep your mouth and gums healthy during flares. If you live in the Chicago area, schedule an appointment with us today for anything you need, including cosmetic dentistry in Lincoln Square. For a list of our 8 Chicagoland dental clinics, click “Make an Appointment” at the top of this page and call or schedule online with the clinic that works best for you.