Oral Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease is the second most-common inflammatory bowel disease (after ulcerative colitis). Crohn’s Disease affects approximately 700,000 people in the U.S. It can affect any part of the gastrointestinal system. Most symptoms affect the digestive tract. What many people do not know is that other symptoms are also possible.

Some symptoms of Crohn’s Disease outside the digestive tract affect the mouth and the lower part of the face. Mouth Woman with aphthous stomatitis - paid - Depositphotos 52168033 m-2015ulcers are the most common of these symptoms. The canker sores (mouth ulcers) tend to arise at the base of the gums, inside the mouth. Characteristics of these canker sores include: small size, oval or round shape, yellow or gray in color with a red border or “halo,” appearing in groups. These sores are typically painful.

Crohn’s canker sores may be the first symptom of the disease to appear. They can precede digestive symptoms by a number of years. In many cases, the mouth ulcers will become worse when there is a Crohn’s Disease flare-up. These mouth ulcers are typically caused by inflammation related to the disease, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or as side effects of some of the medications prescribed to treat Crohn’s Disease.

Incidences of Crohn’s Disease are more common among women than men. Yet, it is men and children with Crohn’s Disease who are most likely to develop mouth ulcers. Some vitamin and mineral deficiencies that are common in those with Crohn’s Disease include vitamin B-12 and zinc, both of which can cause glossitis, or vitamin K, which can cause the gums to bleed.

Among the medications that can have oral side effects are:

  • Budenoside, which can cause redness or swelling of the tongue
  • Ciclosporin, which can cause the gums to swell
  • Loperamide, which can cause dry mouth
  • Methotrexate, which can cause mouth ulcers and gingivitis
  • Tacrolimus, which can cause oral thrush or mouth ulcers.

If you have Crohn’s Disease, be sure to tell your dentist, especially if you are experiencing any of the oral symptoms of the disease.

Other oral symptoms of Crohn’s Disease may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Edema/Swelling of the lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Oral granulomatosis/granulomatous cheilitis
  • Salivary duct inflammation or abscess
  • Erythema
  • Gingivitis
  • Cobblestone appearance
  • Mucosal tags
  • Deeply corrugated buccal mucosa
  • Tooth decay due to vomiting or acid reflux
  • Glossitis (inflamed or red tongue)
  • Redness and scaling around the lips.

Oral symptoms of Crohn’s Disease may be treated with topical medications, steroids to reduce inflammation, adjustment of primary medications, or vitamin or mineral supplements. Your doctor or your dentist may suggest rinsing with warm salt water, maintaining excellent oral hygiene, drinking plenty of water, and more.

The oral symptoms of Crohn’s Disease are painful and aggravating, but they can be controlled and will subside in time. Keep your dentist informed about your symptoms of Crohn’s Disease and any oral manifestations of the disease. Together, your doctor and dentist can help you manage these oral symptoms.