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Eating Disorders and Their Effect on Oral Health

Dietary habits play a significant role in maintaining good oral health. Intake of high sugar or starchy foods can lead to tooth decay and gum diseases issues. Eating disorders also affect an individual’s quality of life and general well-being including a person’s oral health.

 

Types of Eating Disorders and their Effect on Oral Health

 

The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, over 10 million Americans suffer from these eating disorders with more women being affected as compared to men. These eating disorders are accompanied by purges or compulsive behavior aimed to limit weight gain through use of laxatives, diuretics as well as vomiting. People with eating disorders may also experience bleeding gums, cracked lips, dry mouth, tenderness of the mouth and throat as well as swelling of the salivary glands.

 

Anorexia sufferers exhibit extreme fear or anxiety of gaining weight, thus restrict their food intake to the point of starving themselves. Others may eat excessively in one sitting then attempt to get rid of the food through vomiting. They exercise excessively and abuse medications as a way of eliminating calories off their bodies. This kind of behavior deprives the body of essential minerals, vitamins, proteins and other nutrients causing osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the jaw bone that supports the teeth leading to tooth loss.

 

Bulimia, on the other hand, is characterized by rapid and repeated intake of large amounts of food followed by self-induced vomiting. Individuals are entirely out of control when binging but tend to feel guilty after doing it hence they try to undo their actions. This purging behavior allows the stomach acids to come in contact with the teeth leading to erosion of the tooth enamel, discoloration or changes in the shape and size of the teeth. Once excess acids weaken the enamel, it gets thinner exposing the dentine tissue and making the teeth extremely sensitive. Binge eating is similar to bulimia only that, individuals do not attempt to get rid of the food regularly by throwing up or abusing laxatives or enemas.

 

Getting Help

 

Oral health problems caused by eating disorders are best addressed by treating the disorder. All these diseases are triggered by various social, physical and emotional factors that need to be dealt with first. It’s crucial to address the underlying causes that lead to the eating disorders to improve the chances for oral recovery. If you suspect or suffer from an eating disorder, seek professional help with the help of your dentist as early detection and treatment will ensure a smoother and successful recovery. Families and loved ones can be a good support system and create a positive environment that encourages individuals to adopt healthy eating practices.

 

How to Protect Your Teeth

 

After vomiting, it is advisable to avoid brushing immediately as this can cause further teeth damage. Instead, rinse the mouth with water, fluoride mouth rinse or baking soda to neutralize the effects of the stomach acid on the teeth.

If pain and sensitivity of the teeth are experienced, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your dental hygienist or therapist.

Use fluoridated toothpaste as prescribed by your dentist.

Visit the dentist regularly for risk oral health assessments and consider a restoration procedure once the disorder is treated.

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Charlotte Dentistry®
Armstrong & Eshleman, PA

201 Providence Road
Charlotte, NC 28207
704-376-6470
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