The short answer to this question is "yes," but it varies by degrees and from person to person. There's no doubt that the nation seems to be in the grips of a gluten-free craze at the moment, but just what is gluten and how can it be harmful to your teeth and overall health?
For those with sensitivities, gluten (found in grains like wheat) triggers what can be a debilitating autoimmune attack. The gluten causes an antibody response that essentially assaults the sensitive person's small intestine, causing gas, stomach problems and diarrhea. In the Celiac sufferer, these symptoms become debilitating, hindering the absorption of nutrients and leading to chronic fatigue and anemia.
Despite the fact that gluten is associated with bread, it is actually a protein that's found in grains including wheat and barley. It turns out that as much as 7% of the U.S. population has a gluten sensitivity, and one percent has an extreme form of it called Celiac disease. For those with Celiac disease, the only cure is a gluten-free diet; those with gluten sensitivities see a reduction in symptoms from a reduction of gluten intake.
Those with gluten sensitivities can also suffer effects to their dental health. Symptoms in the mouth and teeth are one of the ways Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are first detected. A general dentist, such as Thomas J Merten, DDS, will spot these during a routine examination. Some of the ways a gluten sensitivity manifests in the teeth and mouth include:
- Discoloration of the teeth - Discoloration that looks yellow, brown or white is a possible symptom of gluten sensitivity.
- Tooth enamel damage - The body's reaction to gluten can change saliva chemistry, leading to damage of the tooth enamel.
- Chronic bad breath and canker sores - The gastrointestinal issues caused by Celiac disease or major gluten sensitivities can lead to issues such as bad breath and outbreaks of cancer sores on the mouth and tongue.
- Dry mouth and inflamed gums - Changes to the flow of saliva and a resultant gum sensitivity are additional effects of issues with gluten.
- Cancer - In extreme cases, gluten sensitivities can contribute to cancers of the mouth and pharynx.
While some of these symptoms can only be corrected with cosmetic dentistry, such as bonding and porcelain veneers, others can be dramatically reduced by a gluten-free diet. For those with Celiac disease, going gluten-free is their only option; however, anyone with a gluten sensitivity can have better oral and overall health by steering clear of it.