Eating Disorders and Oral Health
More than 10 million Americans currently are affected by serious eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. While anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, they are most common in teenagers and young adult women. In addition to having a negative impact on an individual’s health and quality of life, eating disorders also affect self-image, relationships with families and friends, and performance in school or at work. If you suffer from an eating disorder, it’s important to talk to your health care provider.
Eating disorders can also affect a person’s oral health. Without the proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue inside the mouth may bleed easily. The glands that produce saliva may swell and individuals may experience chronic dry mouth. Throwing up frequently can affect teeth too.
Types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia. This typically involves an extreme fear of gaining weight or a dread of becoming fat. Even though these individuals may be very thin or even extremely underweight, they see themselves as “fat.” They may attempt to reach or maintain what they think is their perfect body weight by literally starving themselves. They may also exercise excessively.
- Bulimia. Like anorexia, bulimia also includes the fears of being overweight. But it also includes hidden periods of overeating (binge eating) which may occur several times a week or even several times a day. While overeating, individuals may feel completely out of control. They may gulp down thousands of calories often high in carbohydrates and fat–in amounts of food that would be greater than what an average person would eat at one sitting.
Eating disorders arise from a variety of physical, emotional and social issues all of which need to be addressed to help prevent and treat these disorders. Family and friends can help by setting good examples of eating and offering positive comments about healthy eating practices. While eating disorders appear to focus on body image, food and weight, they are often related to many other issues. Referral to health professionals and encouragement to seek treatment is critical as early diagnosis and intervention greatly improve the opportunities for recovery.
If you suffer from an eating disorder these practices can reduce oral health problems associated with it:
- Maintain meticulous oral health care related to toothbrushing and flossing.
- Immediately after throwing up, do NOT brush but rinse with baking soda to help neutralize the effects of the stomach acid.
- Consult with your dentist about your specific treatment needs.
- See your dentist regularly.