Eating disorders are serious health conditions that affect more than just your waistline. Estimates suggest that more than 10 million Americans suffer from some sort of eating disorder, be it anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, which all can have serious effects on your oral health and whole body. In this blog, we explain how eating disorders can have a severe effect on your teeth, and how to get help so you don’t jeopardize your health.
How Eating Disorders Affect Your Teeth
Eating disorders can affect your mouth in a number of ways. Below, we’ll take a closer look at each disorder and explain how it affects your oral health:
- Anorexia – Anorexia is a condition where the subject has an extreme fear of gaining weight, so they starve themselves to keep themselves thin. They may also throw up food or misuse laxatives in order to get any food they did eat out of their system. Oftentimes they deprive their body of essential vitamins and nutrients, and this can lead to weakened tooth enamel, gum disease or chronic dry mouth.
- Bulimia – Bulimia is similar to anorexia in that the person fears being overweight, but it oftentimes involves periods of overeating. They can overeat mass quantities of food and then try to undo the act by purging their system or by using laxatives. Again, this can lead to bleeding gums and chronic dry mouth, but it can also greatly reduce the amount of tooth enamel we have on our teeth. Stomach acid hits these teeth when a person is throwing up, and that acid wears away tooth enamel and can impact both the color, shape and length of each tooth. Over time, this will also lead to temperature sensitivity.
- Binge Eating – Binge eaters are more likely to purge their stomachs after an overeating session, but they don’t do so as frequently as bulimics. However, this can also lead to vitamin deficiencies, gum disease and tooth decay if they aren’t getting enough essential vitamins and minerals. Binge eating can also oftentimes involve a lot of sugary foods, which can exacerbate tooth decay.
Preventing Oral Problems Caused By Eating Disorders
When it comes to keeping your mouth healthy if you have an eating disorder, it’s important that your treat the problem, not the symptoms. Oral health conditions are a symptom of your eating disorder, so trying to brush your teeth after purging isn’t going to undo the damage caused by your stomach acid. You need to treat the source of your problems, which is your eating disorder.
Your dentist or your primary care physician can refer you to a mental health professional or a counseling service that works with individuals with eating disorders to help you put the issue in the past. In fact, many times it’s your dentist or doctor that is the first to find out about your eating disorder because the evidence in your mouth is clear. The earlier you seek treatment, the better shape your mouth and your whole body will be in. And if you’re a parent or friend of someone you suspect has an eating disorder, take the necessary steps to get that person the help they deserve.
Finally, if you suffer from an eating disorder, take these steps to help prevent long-lasting damage. Brush your teeth and floss regularly, and try to get the appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals from your diet each day. Also, after purging, do not brush your teeth right away. Instead, use baking soda to help neutralize the effects of the stomach acid on your teeth. Finally, have regular dental exams and consult with your dentist about your specific treatment needs.