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Effect Of Celiac Disease On A Child's Oral Health

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Celiac disease in children extends beyond gastrointestinal problems. Although the disease is a chronic digestive disorder characterized by the body's inability to absorb nutrients from foods, defects in tooth enamel are common. The disease results in an intolerance to gluten -- a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye.

Defects in dental enamel related to celiac disease generally develop during childhood. Dentists sometimes notice damage to the enamel of a child's permanent teeth before other symptoms of the disease become obvious. Since the disease often comes on during the time when dental enamel is forming, ask your child's doctor or dentist if celiac disease could be the cause of his or her dental problems.

Additional Oral Problems:

  • Tooth discoloration in the form of white, yellow, or brown spots on the teeth

  • Teeth look translucent

  • Pitted enamel, usually on the incisors (teeth at the front of the mouth) and molars

  • Red, smooth, shiny tongue

  • Ulcers or canker sores inside the mouth

  • Dry mouth


Sometimes doctors mistake celiac disease in children for lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome. They also may attribute damaged tooth enamel to early childhood illness or too much fluoride.

Diagnosing the disease generally involves testing the blood for the presence of certain antibodies, undergoing an endoscopy procedure to examine the esophagus and stomach, and taking a tissue biopsy.

Cosmetic Solutions

Although the tooth defects celiac disease cause are permanent, there are cosmetic dentistry options available to cover the imperfections.

Dental bonding is a minimally-invasive procedure dentists use to improve the appearance of teeth by covering up discolored or damaged tooth enamel. Your dentist will match the color of the composite resin to your child's natural tooth color. Upon application, the material bonds with the natural tooth.

The procedure is safe and simple. It doesn't take long either, so you don't have to worry that your child won't be able to sit still for long. Another advantage is if you have dental insurance and bonding is necessary to repair defects in your child's tooth enamel, your plan may provide some coverage for dental bonding.

Dental veneers are another option for covering permanent teeth that are discolored or damaged. Veneers are fitted to cover the front surfaces of your child's teeth. A more invasive procedure than bonding, preparing a tooth for a veneer requires removing some of the enamel from the tooth surface. Therefore, the procedure can't be reversed.

Veneers cost more than composite resin bonding, and dental insurance usually doesn't provide coverage. Dental veneers also need to be replaced in time, which means more dental visits as your child grows.

If you suspect that your child may be having oral problems due to celiac disease, contact a dentist like John Shea DDS or others in your area for help.