Before being diagnosed with Crohn’s, I never had a problem with my teeth. I actually enjoyed going to the dentist. For twenty-one years of my life, I never had a cavity. That all changed when I got Crohn’s disease.
Side effects of steroids
Before I had my first stomach surgery, I was placed on large doses of steroids. We all know that steroids have terrible side effects. I strongly believe that steroids are one of the many factors that led to my tooth decay.
Bed ridden in the hospital for a year
You have to remember: I was in the hospital for over a year straight. For most of that year, I was bed-ridden. If I was well enough to brush my teeth, my mother would bring a basin to my bedside. I would brush my teeth while spitting the toothpaste into a basin. So you can imagine that this was not ideal. For three weeks, I was on life-support. During this time, I obviously could not brush my teeth. Since I had tubes down my throat, my teeth did not get any attention.
Dry mouth from medications
I take many medications that cause dry mouth. Dry mouth causes extra bacteria to grow into your mouth. The steroids, hospital time, and medication allowed my teeth to start decaying. Over the last few years, I have had five cavities. Among the five cavities, two fillings have already fallen out. My dentist says that it's very rare for a filling to decay so quickly.
My dentist and I have taken a healthy approach to make sure that my teeth and gums stay as clean as possible. At first, I was really upset with myself. I felt like I was letting my dentist down. I told him that I was really working on keeping my mouth as healthy as possible. It wasn’t until he started going through my past medical history did he realize that we had a situation that was out of my control. Instead of telling me what I was doing wrong, he told me what we can do to keep the problem under control.
My dentists plan to improve my teeth:
- I make sure that I visit the dentist every 3 months. Most people have to go bi-annually, but my dentist wants to be on top of my teeth.
- I also use a “dry mouth” rinse which really has helped.
- Finally, I make sure I brush my teeth after every meal. Literally.
Improvements in my teeth
I have to say that in the last year, my teeth and gums have improved immensely. If you are managing IBD and are having trouble with your teeth and gums, talk to your dentist. Make sure they know the medications you are on and your past medical history. If you are honest with them, they might take you under their wing and develop a plan to keep your teeth clean under the circumstances.
Remember, don’t be embarrassed! Some of the treatment approaches we take for our disease cause some terrible side effects. Don’t blame yourself if you get a cavity. Don’t blame yourself if your gums are redder than last month. I know it is easier said than done but just keep on trucking along.
Will you help us understand the impact of Crohn's & colitis by taking the IBD In America Survey (US only)?