A dentist with two good reasons to investigate celiac disease (CD) — his wife and daughter — conducted a study that was published in 2009. Today he speaks around the country, sharing his findings with other dental professionals.
Dr. Ted Malahias said CD is not an allergy to gluten. Rather, “it is an autoimmune disorder that causes villous atrophy in the small intestine when ingested gluten produces an immune response that doesn’t attack the gluten, but instead attacks the intestine.”
Symptoms: diarrhea, intestinal bloating, and cramps, are often the first responses to gluten ingestion. Other symptoms can include irritability and weight loss as the body’s nutrient uptake system fails.
According to research from 1989, people with CD have a higher risk of developing oral cancer if they are not on a gluten-free diet.
How does Dr. Malahias suggest dentists help their patients?
If dental professionals know more about celiac disease, and how this illness affects the entire person, including the mouth, they can help in its early detection, and possibly help their patients avoid years of suffering.
Findings from the research he initiated (which was published in the Journal of Gastroenterology in 2009):
1. CD is highly associated with dental enamel defects in childhood.
2. There is an association between CD and aphthous ulcers.
“Because we see the tissue and we see the health of the tissue, we can advise patients to go see their physicians,” he said. “[Dentists] can’t diagnose celiac disease, and you can’t say everyone with dental enamel defects has celiac, but you should at least think about it,” he told Christopher Friesen in a recent interview with rdhmag.com.
He said their clinical suspicions may be the first step in directing patients to physicians who can properly diagnose, or rule out, CD.
According to the story, CD does not discriminate and occurs on all continents, and among all racial, cultural, and age groups. Stress, pregnancy, surgery, or even infections may bring about severe symptoms.
Dr. Malahias’s complete study and more information on celiac disease and the dental patient can be found on his office’s website at http://www.bridgeworksfdc.com/page.php?t=celiac.