More than 10 million Americans currently have some type of eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder are all types of eating disorders that can lead to an array of serious health problems, including some that affect your oral health. Leading North Dallas orthodontist Dr. Darian Hampton takes a look at these effects.
Eating Disorders and Oral Health Consequences
Eating disorders center on improper nutrition and can deprive a person of vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients that are crucial for good oral health. For example, people who severely limit their diets may not get the necessary amounts of calcium and Vitamin D needed to keep teeth healthy and strong. Other people with eating disorders may overeat and indulge in unhealthy foods that are high in sugar, which can lead to wear and tear on teeth.
Self-induced vomiting most commonly associated with bulimia can also weaken tooth structure. The body’s digestive system releases powerful acids to break down food, and self-induced vomiting allows these acids to come in contact with enamel (the outer surface of the teeth). Overexposure to acids can cause erosion and break away at tooth enamel. Constant vomiting can also change the color, size and shape of teeth.
People with anorexia may have weaker jaw bones, as a result of osteoporosis. This can lead to weakened teeth and eventually tooth loss. People with eating disorders may also experience tenderness of the mouth and throat and notice swollen salivary glands.
Changes in the mouth are some of the first signs of an eating disorder. Common oral symptoms include:
- Bad breath
- Tenderness in the mouth, throat and salivary glands
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Dry mouth
- Cracked, red and dry lips
- Mouth sores
- Highly sensitive teeth
Restoring Your Oral Health from an Eating Disorder
The first step towards repairing tooth damage caused by an eating disorder is to treat the eating disorder itself. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help. While tooth restoration cannot happen until after the eating disorder has been fully treated, there are several steps that can be taken to lessen the effect the eating disorder has on teeth during recovery:
- Avoid brushing teeth immediately after vomiting
- Rinse your mouth with water or a fluoride mouth rinse after purging
- Brush daily with fluoridated toothpaste and then floss
- Mouth guards can prevent additional wear and tear on your teeth
Once someone has recovered from the eating disorder, teeth restoration and repair can begin. The amount of restoration needed will depend on the extent of damage caused by the eating disorder. Treatment may require dental crowns, veneers, composite fillings or more extensive procedures such as full mouth reconstruction.
Contact the Hamptons Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
If you or someone you know would like more information on good oral health or you would like to schedule an appointment, please reach out to the Hamptons Family & Cosmetic Dentistry. North Dallas orthodontist Dr. Darian Hampton is dedicated to helping patients achieve optimum oral health and maintain bright, healthy smiles. Call (972) 395-9292 to speak to a friendly member of our team today.