Five Ways an Eating Disorder Can Impact Oral Health

October 1, 2020

Eating disorders are a sensitive, yet important subject to talk about. These conditions, including anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating can be life threatening and can also have serious consequences on one’s oral health.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, more than 10 million Americans are affected by an eating disorder and 89% of people with bulimia have symptoms that show up in the mouth. Often, a dentist will be the first to spot these signs, some of which may include:

  1. Worn, damaged or translucent teeth. Repeated exposure to stomach acid causes the enamel to disappear, so the teeth will begin to change shape and color. This damage of oral tissues can also lead to broken and chipped teeth.
  2. Dry mouth. Because of the reduction of saliva flow, this can lead to higher risk of oral disease and infections, including gingivitis, tooth decay and thrush. The salivary glands can also become inflamed. Enlarged glands can be painful and are often noticeably visible.
  3. Tooth sensitivity. Eating hot or cold food or drinks may become constantly uncomfortable. Depending on the severity, it may require treatments that can repair damaged areas of the tooth (fillings, crowns, inlays, bonding, surgical gum grafts or root canals).
  4. Frequent cavities or root canals. Even without vomiting, lack of nutrition, vitamins and minerals can cause damaged areas to the teeth and gums.
  5. Bleeding and inflamed gums. Although bleeding gums are common, it doesn’t mean it should be ignored. If the gums are swollen, red or bleeding, this could be a sign of gingivitis or gum disease. Also, without proper nutrition, the gums may be more prone to bleeding easily.

Among these signs, there can also be difficulty swallowing, chronic sore throat, inflamed esophagus, bone loss in the jaw, bad breath, frequent canker sores and cracked lips.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important to obtain a referral to an appropriate health professional for treatment. Early treatment is encouraged and can increase chance of successful recovery.

In the meantime, we encourage you to speak with your dentist in order to maintain meticulous oral health care. This means proper brushing and flossing, seeing your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings, and establishing a plan to address your specific treatment needs.

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