Unfortunately, millions of Americans suffer from some type of eating disorder. Teenage girls and young women are most likely to suffer from an eating disorder, but eating disorders can affect anyone. When it comes to eating disorders effects, you may be surprised to learn that your general dentist may be an expert. Studies show that oral health is closely linked to overall health and wellness, which is why dentists may be the first medical professionals to discover the signs of an eating disorder in a patient. This is because anorexia (starvation) and bulimia (frequent, self-induced vomiting) both have an impact on your dental health.
Read on to discover how eating disorders damage oral health and learn what treatment options are available.
Eating Disorders and Your Oral Health
Eating disorders are deadly diseases that greatly impact physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Because our overall health is closely linked to our dental health, your dentist can detect signs of eating disorders.
The most common eating disorder dentists detect is bulimia. In fact, over 90% of bulimia sufferers exhibit signs of tooth erosion due to the amount of stomach acid that comes in contact with the teeth and will eat away at the tooth enamel.
Once the enamel is damaged, teeth become more vulnerable to dental cavities, tooth sensitivity, chips, and cracks. An eating disorder can cause extreme tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks, brittle teeth, and even discoloration. Although other types of acid found in soda and wine can also cause these problems, individuals suffering from bulimia will present in a distinct pattern along the backs of the upper teeth.
In addition to enamel erosion, bulimia sufferers may also experience damage to the soft tissues of the mouth due to stomach acid. This includes the tissue lining the roof of the mouth, the throat, and the tongue.
Anorexia also impacts dental health and can be detected by dentists. Anorexia sufferers often experience nutritional deficiencies that will result in more frequent dental cavities and tooth decay. Signs of vitamin deficiency include bad breath, canker sores, red and swollen gums, and even dehydration.
The effects of eating disorders may overlap and cause several dental issues. Your general dentist can help determine the best course of dental treatment to restore your smile following an eating disorder.
Treating Dental Consequences of Eating Disorders
All is not lost when it comes to treating the dental consequences of eating disorders. While tooth enamel cannot be regrown, there are treatments that can restore the function and appearance of the teeth while protecting them from further damage from eating disorders. These options include dental crowns, bridges, or dental veneers, depending on the severity of the damage and the age of the patient.
Dentists can also work closely with patients during treatment for eating disorders and encourage them to continue healthy oral hygiene habits. Maintaining oral care through treatment for eating disorders is very important. Keeping your mouth moisturized with plenty of water and sugar-free gum, brushing and flossing at least twice a day, and staying in close contact with your medical team is the best way to protect your smile.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, help is available. Please contact your doctor or visit the National Eating Disorder Association for information and support.
Here at Endodontic Specialists of Colorado, we want to see all of our patients overcome diseases like eating disorders and thrive with healthy, beautiful smiles. Our team of doctors are specially trained in restoring smiles and relieving pain. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation and learn how we can help you!