Something I’m Embarrassed to talk about: My Teeth.

Something I’m Embarrassed to talk about: My Teeth.

During my longest hospitalization I’ve ever had (6 months) a tooth of mine chipped and I was left with only a portion of it. A few months later the tooth next to it chipped, and a few months after that they were so rotted out that I developed an abscess and had to have them pulled.

In my 20′s…

In college!

Ugh! Just another thing for me to mumble I’m too young for this!, under my breath about.


You might be wondering why I let it get to the point of developing an abscess before I did anything about it. You see, I had no health insurance. I had also just spent 6 months straight in the hospital and had undergone 2 major emergency surgeries and therefore incurred a lot of medical debt. I was also young, in college, and not financially capable of taking care of it. So that’s why. I was devastated about my teeth and felt hopeless knowing that dental care is so expensive and there was nothing I could do to help myself at the time but live with the wide open space in my mouth where two teeth should be.

Since then I have lost 3 more of my teeth and what prompted me to write this tonight is that one more tooth just broke apart a couple hours ago. In total that is 6 teeth I have lost. In addition I have had many cavities filled and one root canal. Seriously, I’m too young for this!

If you know me from my website, Inflamed & Untamed or my YouTube channel you may think that I am a confident person and able to talk about things most people are too uncomfortable to talk about. I’ve talked about having accidents, sex with a J-pouch or an ostomy, and other “embarrassing” things about living with Crohn’s or colitis and I’ve done it easily and with confidence. It takes a lot to embarrass me! There is one thing that I am embarrassed to talk about though and that is my teeth. I actually had a video up at one point where I talked about this issue but I deleted it not long after.

What Causes Dental Problems for Patients with Crohn’s or UC?

bad teeth

After I began having trouble with my teeth it promted me to look into the cause of my dental problems. Could it be my Crohn’s disease that was causing all of the issues? I surveyed other patients on my website a few years ago and found that many patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis reported the same dental complications that I had, so I wanted to investigate more.

I did have my own theories as to why my teeth are they way they are. I was diagnosed as a child and in and out of the hospital quite frequently as a kid. Vomiting was a major symptom of mine back then and still is to this day. I suffer from chronic obstructions that cause me to vomit and gastric acid can erode teeth. I figured all of the years of my life throwing up so much had to play a role. Another thing I figured played a role in the condition of my teeth was nutritional deficiencies. I was often underweight and malnourished. I’m certain my poor nutritional state also played a role. Another cause I suspect is the use of steroids. I used steroids often growing up for long periods of time and was even on high doses of IV steroids several times while inpatient. Lastly I believe having an immune-mediated disease somehow has to play a role in IBD and dental issues.

These are all educated guesses but I wanted to see if there was any true research that has been done linking IBD to dental problems; specifically tooth decay and cavities. Here is what I found: Patients with IBD are at higher risk for dental cavities thought to be caused by many factors including diet and a dysfunctional immune system. One study I found showed that Crohn’s disease patients reported drinking more sweetened drinks between meals compared to controls. It also found that Crohn’s disease patients who had intestinal resections had more decayed, missing, or filled teeth and more dental plaque.

Many patients often report that they are unable to tolerate eating fruits and vegetables and feel better when they eat foods considered to be junk foods. This could be one possible cause of the higher rate of cavities. Several studies show that patients with Crohn’s disease consume more sugar compared with controls even prior to diagnosis. Though I could not find any studies on dental complications and vomiting caused by IBD, there is a lot of research on the dental complications of vomiting in people with bulimia and it’s probable that results would be similar.

Too Embarrassed to Open Up About It, Until Now.

I definitely suspect that having Crohn’s disease has played a significant role in the state of my teeth. I am lucky in that the teeth that have fallen out are all in the back so you can’t really tell,crohn's and teeth but I notice it myself and it really takes it’s toll on my self-esteem. I used to have such gorgeous teeth. I wore retainers and braces for years and so it sucks to be young and have these issues after going through all that. Bad teeth have such a stigma here in America and I find that I am afraid to yawn in front of people and notice more and more that I prevent myself from smiling or laughing just-in-case. I constantly worry about more teeth going bad and about the cost of all this dental work. Eventually I hope to get dental implants to not only fix the problem cosmetically but also to prevent my jaw from shrinking but they are so expensive I just don’t know.

What about you? Do you think having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis has affected your teeth? Let me know about it in the comment section below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
  1. Szymanska, S., Lördal, M., Rathnayake, N., Gustafsson, A., & Johannsen, A. (2014). Dental Caries, Prevalence and Risk Factors in Patients with Crohn’s Disease. PLoS ONE, 9(3).
  2. Daley, T. D., & Armstrong, J. E. (2007). Oral Manifestations of Gastrointestinal Diseases. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 21(4), 241-244.
  3. Mancheno-Franch, A., Jimenez-Soriano, Y., & Sarrion-Perez, M. (2010, June 21). Dental management of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry J Clin Exp Dent, 191-195. doi:10.4317/jced.2.e191
  4. Greenfield, P. (n.d.). The Oral Effects of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Retrieved August 10, 2016, from http://oralhealth.deltadental.com/adult/medicalconditions/22,Delta139
  5. Cauble, D. A., DMD. (2011, March 01). Full-Mouth Rehabilitation of a Patient with Crohn’s Disease. Retrieved August 10, 2016, from http://www.dentalaegis.com/cced/2011/03/full-mouth-rehabilitation-of-a-patient-with-crohn-s-disease

Comments

View Comments (15)
  • mmlevy
    4 days ago

    I know this was posted years ago, but i can’t express how timely it was for me finding it….after returning from the dentist and learning I have 15 cavities and need 2 root canals and will probably lose a tooth near the front. I’m on disability and my husband was recently laid off so I don’t know what to do. I’m 53 now, but my teeth have always been well maintained and perfectly straight (thanks mom and dad!) no cavities until age35, which as I now know is when my Crohns became active. I didn’t know I had it til then.
    Since this is caused by a medical disorder, why is it not covered under medical insurance? I have dental insurance but I’ll be lucky if I get a thousand in total!

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    4 days ago

    Hi @mmlevy,

    Thank you for commenting. I am happy this post was able to help you and I am sorry that you have to deal with this symptom. Teeth definitely take a hit with IBD and you certainly are not alone.

    Your question about medical insurance is spot on. I agree with you, that if it’s caused by a medical disorder, it would be fair if it was covered. But, this is life right?

    If you ever have any questions or just need someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to reach out. Also, if you ever want to get feedback from the community on anything concerning IBD, feel free to post your question on our Q&A page. Here’s the link: https://inflammatoryboweldisease.net/q-and-a/

    Wishing you the best.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • LCooper
    3 months ago

    I have had Crohn’s since childhood. I have had many dental issues and it has been very costly. I have 3 dental bridges and my teeth adjacent to the bridges are deteriorating and the gums are shrinking. My teeth are a dingy colour that professional whitening x 3 has not changed. One of my front teeth is chipped. I am at a point where I want a whole mouth makeover but can’t imagine what that will cost and I, too, am terribly embarrassed by the state of my teeth. My Crohn’s is fairly controlled on a biological medication at present but there are signs that the meds are losing effectiveness. This is an issue as I am allergic to many of the meds available for Crohn’s and others I was on proved ineffective. I

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    4 days ago

    Hi @lcooper,

    How are you doing these days? I hope your medications are continuing to work. And I am sorry you are dealing with teeth symptoms. Just know you are absolutely not alone in this.

    Here’s an article you may find interesting: https://inflammatoryboweldisease.net/living/teeth/

    I hope you are doing well.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • teritsx09
    2 years ago

    I’ve had Crohns since 1988 and its been a rough, hard road like a lot of us, BUT the hardest fact is that the medications for helping with the disease has been ruining my teeth!! As with the writer of this article I have never openly discussed this!! I am 59 yrs old now and for the last couple of years I have, I think only 2 or 3 of my original teeth left!! I have a upper and bottom plate in and I need a couple implants but I can’t afford them so not sure what I’m going to do now! Back to the reasons for my problems sound JUST like yours; medications,’injections, drips, feeding tube, STEROIDS for years and years, lack of nutritional needs!! Good luck to you!!

  • nicke7682
    1 year ago

    I am 35 with three kids and have the same problem I find that people often think I was a drug user which I am not I cannot afford dental I often avoid situations of letting new people this affects me daily

  • mssloop
    2 years ago

    I wasn’t diagnosed with Crohn’s until 2009 – and didn’t show anything I recognize as symptoms in retrospect until 2005.I did, however, develop psoriasis in high school back in the early 70s along with periodic spells of what eventually would turn out to be psoriatic arthritis (PsA). About then my teeth also started decaying at a rapid pace. Luckily, my parents made sure I had good dental care and dentists worked with me for years to spread out payments for root canals, crowns and large fillings that had to be replaced with even larger fillings a few years later. It wasn’t until a decade or so ago that I connected online with a large number of other PsA patients and learned that many of them had the same thing happen around the time their symptoms started showing. I began to suspect an autoimmune connection.

    I’ve asked a couple of dentists what they thought. They think it is very likely. Our dentist where we live now tells me that IgA is a major component of saliva and autoimmune illnesses may affect that which would destroy some of saliva’s protective properties. The decay of my teeth has slowed considerably since I have been on strong combinations of DMARDs and biologics, so who knows? I wish someone would do a study on this.

  • rggrkaya
    2 years ago

    I’m with you! My Crohn’s onset in my late teens, but I wasn’t diagnosed until 22. I am fairly certain it affected my dental development and health; for me mostly due to vitamin deficiencies and the steroids. I never had a single cavity as a kid. Since Crohn’s I have had 4, including 2 that needed root canals, and 1 that progressed so quickly the tooth crumbled and had to be extracted. Conversely, after 2 surgeries and countless meds, I have now been in remission for about 4 years (thanks in no small part to diet changes including going gluten free) and my teeth are not just healthier but I am – at 39 years of age – getting my 18 year old molars (not Wisdom teeth, but the actual second upper molars) that never came in previously.

  • dchad
    2 years ago

    I have had Crohn’s for 27 yrs. My teeth are a mess 🙁 I currently have a top denture and the 8 teeth I have left on the bottom are all broken. I am so ashamed to be around people and open my mouth. People look at you with such disgust. I am on disability and have no dental insurance, Medicare or state medicaid will not cover dental work.It is impossible to afford the work that needs to be done and since I can’t eat properly my health is getting worse. I just can’t understand why it is so hard to get proper care when it is so important to your health as a hole.I have been unable to find a dentist who will take payments, so I continue to pray. Thanks for letting me share with others who are dealing with the same issue.

  • BBB
    4 months ago

    I’m in the same position as you are. On disability, Medicare nor Medicaid covers dental, cant afford payments nor find anyone who will accept payments, and unable to take out a loan. Sucks

  • NikNakMac
    2 years ago

    I too have lost several teeth luckily in the back as well. My main problem right now is the inflammation in my gums, they are red and swollen and bleed but I brush and use mouthwash everyday I have taken antibiotics a couple different times now and nothing. It started right around the time of my last major flare where I was hospitalized. The dentist who I see every 6 months has no idea what is going on.

  • Nursemommy
    2 years ago

    Since diagnosis, I have had 2 root canals, 2 teeth pulled and had at least another 5 break into pieces! As if this disease wasn’t embarrassing enough, now I don’t even have the confidence to smile through my pain. I look like some homeless, crack addict who doesn’t care for themselves when in reality I am just really sick and have been on a lot of really toxic meds. It’s very disheartening.

  • Hoptomistic
    2 years ago

    Glad I’m not alone on this. Had 11 broken/rotted teeth pulled in one shot 8 years ago and got implants. Dr said that the pain killers/morphine from hospital stays and surgeries had a lot to do with it too. Apparently long term morphine use has the same effect on your teeth as meth

  • 3 years ago

    I had same issue it was also from being on prednisone. It helps to rot your teeth. Finally thought I was on track had 3 more teeth pulled to get dentures then got sick again. Going to get it done after my illeostomy on the 20th when I’ve recovered. I do keep having my teeth cleaned and that does help a bit

  • 3 years ago

    To inflamed and untamed…
    I fully understand the teeth issue. I was diagnosed at 30 with C.D. I had issues with my teeth then and it just got worse to the point I lost all my teeth and now have dentures since I was 45. I am now 56. Stay strong.

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