Crohn’s and Colitis: how can it affect my teeth The first week in December is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week. Crohn's and Colitis are lifelong conditions where parts of the digestive system become inflamed. Unlike most common conceptions the gut is not just in your torso but also in your mouth and through to the end of your colon. As an autoimmune disease, it can make you more susceptible to gum disease. As your body tries to reduce any inflammation of your gums, as these antibodies travel to the area, they can damage the supporting structures of the teeth. Therefore, having a good dental hygiene routine is important as it can help you to reduce some of the symptoms of your disease. Can my dentist help me? You should keep an eye on your dental health and inform your dentist of your condition and any medication that you are taking. They will then be able to help and offer advice tailored to you. You should still be brushing twice a day for two minutes, last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, using a fluoride toothpaste. However, some kinds of toothpaste may not be suitable for you. Some medications used to treat Crohn’s and Colitis can cause dry mouth. This means that your mouth could be sore, so you may need to avoid spicy or acidic foods, which could irritate your mouth. If you do suffer from dry mouth, speak to your pharmacist about over-the-counter products which could help with this. Some kinds of toothpaste contain Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which is the foaming agent that makes our toothpaste froth. These kinds of toothpaste may be too astringent for your mouth, so try to choose a toothpaste without this ingredient. You could ask your dentist or dental hygienist to recommend a toothpaste for you. You may need one higher in fluoride to help manage your oral health and protect against dental decay, especially if you suffer from dry mouth. Crohn’s and Colitis can also cause recurrent mouth ulcers which is important to keep an eye on. If you have an ulcer which does not heal within 3 weeks, you should make an appointment with your dentist, so that he can look at it. Regular dental appointments should help you to manage this. You should clean in-between your teeth every day, using interdental brushes, tape or floss, to help keep your dental hygiene in peak condition. If your joints are painful and you find it too fiddly to use these interdental tools, you could try using a Waterpik. A Waterpik shoots water (or mouthwash) between your teeth to remove the plaque and debris. You may find this easier to use, especially if you have limited dexterity. Plaque collecting between teeth can cause carries and increase the risk of other conditions. Diseases such as gum disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes can impact all other aspects of your body. What other risks are there? While it is unknown what exactly causes Crohn’s and Colitis, smoking is linked to both exacerbating it and potentially a risk factor. Smoking can also harm your dental health. One of the most visible ones is causing nicotine staining on your teeth. Mouth cancer is also more likely if you smoke or chew tobacco. One of the symptoms of mouth cancer is the appearance of ulcers which can be deceiving as Colitis and Crohn’s cause mouth ulcers too. If you do smoke and have these conditions, you may need dental visits more frequently to keep a closer eye on your dental health. If you have Crohn’s or Colitis, it is important that you try to eat a balanced diet, especially during a flare. Try to avoid processed and sugary foods and drinks, if possible. If you do have a high-sugar diet or vomit during a flare, you could use a fluoride mouthwash after each episode to reduce the risk of dental decay.