Oh, the joys of adolescence... when everything seems to cost an arm and a leg, especially when it comes to dental care and orthodontics. The joys are compounded when a child is diagnosed with celiac disease, which means parents have to keep their child safe from gluten. Unfortunately, gluten can be found in more than just food items, and is often found in dental hygiene products and orthodontic devices, such as retainers.
If your child has celiac disease and needs orthodontic treatment, it's important that you understand the types of dental products and devices that may contain gluten, how they can affect your child, and precautions you can take. Here's what you need to know.
Gluten in dental products and devices
As the parent of a child with celiac, there's no doubt that you check every ingredient label of every food before you give the food to your child. However, it's also important to check the ingredients of non-food items as well, especially oral health care products and dental devices. Gluten is sometimes used as a binding agent due to the glue-like and elastic qualities it has. These qualities are why manufacturers use gluten to make plastics and resin polymers, including for retainers, bite splints, and mouth guards.
The binding agent quality of gluten makes it ideal for toothpastes, so you'll want to be sure the toothpaste in your home and in the dental office are gluten free. Other possible gluten-containing products in your home and/or dental office include dental picks, polishing paste, dental floss, toothbrushes, mouthwashes, and rubber gloves. Before your child sits in the chair at a dental or orthodontic office, ask the staff if these types of things are free of gluten.
Your child's health & gluten-containing orthodontic devices
Just a small amount of gluten entering into your child's body can cause their autoimmune system to kick into high gear due to having celiac disease. Essentially, when your child ingests (and/or touches, in severe cases) gluten, even in extremely small amounts, his or her body attacks itself. Now, consider what would happen if your child wears long-term orthodontic devices that contain gluten. You guessed it! Your child's condition could worsen.
It is crucial that every part of each orthodontic device is gluten-free, particularly cement, rubber bands, and plastics. Ask the orthodontist to check with the various manufacturers of those items to make sure they are all free of gluten, especially if the orthodontic office is not promoted as being gluten-free. Given the prevalence of gluten intolerance and celiac disease, many dentists and orthodontists offer gluten-free treatment and offices for their patients.
As with most things that are gluten-free, it may be a good idea to budget a little more when it comes to dental care and orthodontic treatment. However, most dentists and orthodontists work with their patients to set up affordable payment plans, so be sure to ask if that is an option available to you.
Get a series of tests done prior to orthodontic treatment
It's a good idea to have your child get a series of celiac disease tests done prior to starting orthodontic treatment. The test results can be used as a baseline for the future. This may help determine if any gluten was introduced into their body via their orthodontic device in spite of your due diligence.
It's also a good idea to keep daily records of what your child ingests and touches after treatment, if you don't already do so. Doing this may help you pinpoint the cause of a flare up. If your child inexplicably goes into remission or their celiac worsens after beginning an orthodontic treatment, do another series of tests for comparison. This can help your child's doctor in his or her assessment of your child's disease, as well as the orthodontist.
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