December 1 marks the beginning of Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week. As the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation explains, approximately 3 million Americans live with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which fall under a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, the two conditions are not the same. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to anus, whereas ulcerative colitis typically affects only the colon or large intestine. Both conditions can impact oral health.
How IBD Impacts Oral Health
Having IBD can affect oral health in a number of ways. For example, IBD may manifest in the mouth as painful ulcers, decreased saliva production or gingivitis, among other problems. Indeed, one study published in PLOS One journal reported that IBD patients underwent significantly more dental procedures than control patients, most often related to dental caries and tooth loss. Another study estimated that as many as 50% of patients with IBD experience oral lesions such as canker sores. Evidence also suggests that oral health problems may stem from the medications used to treat IBD, as well as from the body’s decreased ability to absorb essential nutrients.
How Oral Health Impacts IBD
Although findings show that having IBD can have an important impact on oral health, the reverse is also true: how healthy your mouth is can also help or hurt IBD. In fact, recent research published in the journal Cell found that periodontitis, or gum disease, aggravates gut inflammation as bad bacteria in the oral cavity migrate to the gut. While that seems like bad news, it tells us that maintaining proper oral care can affect how often those with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis experience flares, and is yet another indicator of the substantial role of oral health in overall well being.
Proper Oral Care for Patients with IBD
For patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the following oral health tips can not only help improve your gut, they can benefit your overall health:
- Control your diet with limited intake of sugary foods and beverages.
- Quit smoking.
- Maintain a daily oral hygiene routine, including brushing and flossing.
- Visit your dentist regularly and be sure to tell them about your IBD condition and any medications used to treat it.
If you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, we can help you find the treatment plan that works best for your condition. Schedule with us today!