Investigating the link between inflammatory bowel disease and oral health

Study code

Lead researcher
Professor Andrew Smith

Study type
Participant re-contact

Institution or company
Eastman Dental Institute, University College London

Researcher type

Speciality area
Gastroenterology, Oral and Dental Health


Summary of study

Recent studies have shown that poor oral health, such as gum disease, can worsen other health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Inflammatory bowel disease is linked to ulceration of the gut and some of these patients also suffer from inflammation in the mouth. The question we are trying to answer is 'Do people with poor oral health have a more severe form of inflammatory bowel disease?'

The first part of the study is to determine how many people with inflammatory bowel disease also have poor oral health. This will be determined through the use of an online oral health questionnaire. Individuals who we identify as suffering from both inflammatory bowel disease and poor oral health would be asked to attend an in-person appointment. During the appointment the individual would receive a full oral health check by a dentist and provide three samples (blood, saliva and stool) for analysis. We would then test the samples for markers of inflammation and determine the type of bacteria that live in the mouth (saliva) and gut (stool).

Our study will help us understand how poor oral health and inflammatory bowel disease influence each other. It is possible that improving oral health could benefit people with inflammatory bowel disease.

Potential patient benefit

Oral inflammation (e.g. gum disease) in patients with inflammatory bowel disease is very often missed by general practitioners and gastroenterologists, even though the evidence for oral disease in this specific patient group is becoming more apparent. The main purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of the link between inflammatory bowel disease and oral inflammatory disease. This information will aid gastroenterologists and dentists in the development of the most suitable treatments across the two specialities. Treatment and subsequent improvement in oral health may provide some benefit to individuals with inflammatory bowel disease. In the longer term we hope to make a substantial improvement in the patient’s quality of life through the early diagnosis of oral disease in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Patients will be referred directly from the gastroenterology clinic to an NHS dentist for assessment. This will be of benefit to individuals who currently have no access to NHS dental treatment. If we are successful, we may be in a position to develop a screening protocol to identify patients who are susceptible to developing oral manifestations and provide some form of preventative treatment.