Crohn's Disease and the mouth

By Dr Andre Clarke Crohn's disease is a disease of chronic inflammation affecting the end of the small intestine and the beginning part of the large intestine. The intestine is the part of the digestive tubing between the stomach and the anus. It is divided into the small and the large part. There are many theories that surround the possible causes of Crohn's disease but the concrete cause is essentially unknown. Genetics, environment and dietary factors are perceived as the major contributors. Some experts also blame bacteria and viruses. Usually, the disease occurs in individuals around the ages of 20 and 30, but there is also another peak in occurrence around the age of 60. It is associated very often with diarrhea and stomach pains. Fever, fatigue and weight loss are a few of the body's other manifestations of Crohn's disease. In addition to the body's general response, the head and neck regions of the body, show specific manifestations of the disease. The mouth develops ulcers and the lips develop swellings. Also, it is not uncommon for the eyes to develop inflammation and redness when affected by Crohn's disease. There has been an increased occurrence of intestinal cancer noted in persons with Crohn's disease, but with early recognition of mouth lesions and the immediate start of treatment, the prognosis of the disease improves. Prognosis is a medical term that doctors use to forecast the probable course and outcome of a disease. It especially applies to the chances of recovery. The treatment of Crohn's disease as previously mentioned includes elemental diets (using already digested food) and medications that suppress the body's immune system. The mouths of persons with Crohn's disease can be very painful during the active stages. The discomfort comes from not only the mouth lesions, ulcers and swollen lips, but also from the overgrowths of mouth tissues that frequently occur. Additionally, in many instances, malabsorption of minerals and vitamins (associated with the disease) causes small cracks to develop along the corners of the mouth. These will add to the bad mouth experiences of Crohn's disease. Of note, it is also found that persons with Crohn's disease have a high occurrence of cavities (holes in the teeth) and gum disease. It is, therefore, very important for persons with Crohn's disease to visit the dentist often. They should go to ensure good mouth health and to manage the ill effects of Crohn's disease. Another good reason to go is that the mouth side effects of the medications used to treat Crohn's disease will also need to be managed. The dental healthcare professional will note the amount and type of corticosteroids and immunosuppressive medications used. In particular Sulfasalazine, which can cause low red blood cell count, low white blood cell count and low platelet count. All visits to the dentist will most likely be short and early in the morning. Medications like Motrin will also be avoided, as well as any antibiotics that cause diarrhea (e.g. Cleocin and Augmentin). It is already very difficult to live with Crohn's disease and no dental professional will intentionally add to that difficulty. Let us remember that the mouth is an extension of the body. Whatever affects the body affects it. It is therefore crucial to seek help from compassionate dental healthcare professionals, to alleviate any dental problems associated with or linked to reduced body health. Stay in brush with your smile. Keep your mouth alive. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended and may not be treated as, a substitute for professional medical/dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or dental professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical/dental condition. Never disregard professional medical/dental advice or delay in seeking it because of a purely informational publication. If you have questions, please send email to dr_andreclarke@hotmail.com.


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