Eating Disorders And Oral Health

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating have a negative impact on the quality of life of the sufferer of such conditions. Currently, over 10 million individuals in the United States alone are affected, people who either avoid food or consume unhealthy food in great quantities. If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder, it is important to gain an understanding of the severity in eating habits. The condition of teeth and gums, in particular, is affected by eating disorders, and is often one of the first signs that health needs to take priority.

When a person does not consume the foods needed to promote health and vitality, the body does not receive the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients necessary for overall health. Our teeth are no different from any other organ in the body; they have certain needs that are met by a healthy diet. Either not incorporating healthy foods into the diet, or eliminating foods by vomiting can produce symptoms such as:

  • Erosion of the surface of teeth, or loss of gum tissue from excessive acid.
  • Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures as teeth are eroded by acid.
  • Discoloration of teeth as enamel is eaten away.
  • Changes in the shape or length of teeth.
  • Teeth that become translucent or break at the tips due to acid erosion.
  • Increased incidence of tooth decay.
  • Unexplained pain in a particular tooth.
  • Persistent dry mouth and cracked lips.
  • Enlarged salivary glands.

Ideally, the person suffering from an eating disorder will receive professional help that will lead to a healthy body image and a halt of unhealthy eating habits. By ending struggles with food, the body will begin to receive the nutrients it needs to regain the health of all organs. When acid is not continually washing over teeth, oral health begins to improve. Additionally, one who suffers from or has suffered from an eating disorder is advised to maintain excellent oral hygiene habits that include brushing and flossing as recommended, and to visit the dentist regularly for evaluation and treatment. To minimize the harmful effects of acid, the American Dental Association states that one may rinse the mouth with baking soda, rather than brushing teeth after vomiting.

Eating disorders are very serious conditions that rob the body of nutrients and affect every vital organ. While caring for teeth is important, it is imperative to obtain help to overcome any type of eating disorder.

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