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Eating Disorders & Your Oral Health

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

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Over 10 million Americans are seriously affected by eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, this category of health concerns includes anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.

Eating disorders have a negative effect on an individual’s overall health, their quality of life, self-image, relationships with friends and family members, their performance in school or work, as well as their oral health (1).

There are several ways eating disorders can impact oral health.

Your Gums & Soft Tissue Health

Eating disorders can lead to malnutrition in the affected individual. Without proper vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, the gums and soft issues inside the mouth can become red, swollen, or more likely to bleed easily. Nutritional deficiencies can also make the individual more prone to canker sores of the soft tissue.

Additionally, saliva glands can become swollen, painful, and dysfunctional, leading to chronic dry mouth or bad breath. A chronically dry mouth also increases the likelihood tooth decay will occur. Dehydration secondary to an eating disorder can exacerbate these issues and also cause redness, dryness and cracking of the lips.

Excessive purging and vomiting can lead to redness, scratches and cuts inside the mouth, especially on the upper palate (the roof) of the mouth (1, 2).

Your Tooth Health

Eating disorders that involve frequent vomiting create serious damage to the enamel of the teeth. Repeated exposure to stomach acid in the mouth harms the enamel, causing color changes or even shape or length changes.

This is termed dental erosion. Teeth can become weak, thin, translucent, brittle, and prone to breakage. It is also common to develop temperature sensitivity when the enamel becomes worn from regular vomiting.

Nutritional deficiencies can promote tooth decay and gum disease. For example, food restriction often leads to deficiency in calcium, iron, vitamin D and the B vitamins – nutrients that are key in tooth and oral health (1, 2, 3).

Your Joint Health

It is not uncommon to develop degenerative arthritis within the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) of the jaw when an eating disorder is present. TMJ arthritis can lead to pain in the joint area, chronic headaches, or problems with opening and closing the mouth and chewing (2). (We’re able to help in this area—regardless if the cause is an eating disorder—so if this sounds like a problem for you, let us know immediately.)

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Is The Damage Permanent?

The damage and changes of the mouth from eating disorders can cause long-term or even permanent changes. Early detection of these changes – as well as early diagnosis of the eating disorder itself – are crucial to more successful recovery period for both the body and the mouth!

Oral Care For Those Suffering From Eating Disorders

If you suffer from an eating disorder, there are several habits you can maintain to reduce the amount of oral health problems that could develop:

  1. Maintain extremely good oral health hygiene practices, including brushing and flossing regularly. It’s important to develop meticulous habits due to the added stress on the oral tissues.
  2. If you do throw up, rinse with baking soda to help neutralize the effects of the stomach acid, PRIOR to any brushing of the teeth. This will help to avoid additional damage to the enamel. Brushing right after vomiting can increase erosion or increase likelihood for decay. (Please speak to us further; this is not medical advice, this is a general recommendation.)
  3. Consult with your healthcare provider and your dentist about specific needs. Every case is different, and should be managed with appropriate support and treatment!
  4. Maintain regular dental visits. Hagen Dental Practice is a safe place for you to disclose your struggles with an eating disorder and progress positively towards recovery.

Schedule An Appointment with Hagen Dental Practice

Eating disorders arise from a variety of physical, emotional and social issues. Remember that the information in this blog isn’t medical advice; If you suffer from an eating disorder, it’s very important to talk with your health care provider to address the issues and prevent or treat these disorders. You can also contact the National Eating Disorder Helpline at (800) 931-2237 for support, resources and treatment options.

It’s also vital to stay up to date with regular dental health checkups to catch signs of damage and disease early. Please call (513) 251-5500 or click the Online Scheduling button on our website to schedule your next visit.  Or, give us a call at (513) 251-5500 today!

Sources:

  1. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/e/eating-disorders
  2. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/dental-complications-eating-disorders
  3. https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/dental-erosion
  4. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline