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Eating Disorders & Oral Health


In the United States alone, a significant number of people, most especially young women, and teen girls are affected by eating disorders that harm their health.

Bulimia nervosa and Anorexia nervosa are the two most common eating disorders. Their effects are visible on the teeth and overall oral health and are easily noticeable to a dentist.

Tooth erosion affects over 90% of people who have Bulimia. One effect of Bulimia is frequent vomiting, and this causes the stomach content, which often contains acid to reach the teeth. This acid causes the enamel to dissolve, thereby making the teeth overly reactive to hot and cold, and also the teeth looks weary and breaks away easily. Although people who often consume sugary/soda drinks could be affected by acid erosion, acid erosion as a result of Bulimia is quite different. The upper front teeth, notably the biting edges are mostly affected while the bottom teeth suffer the least as the acid least harms them during vomits.

Although the enamel cannot regrow when damaged, it can be fixed using some restorative procedures like veneer and crown. The extent of damage to the enamel will determine the best method to treat a damaged/ lost enamel effectively.

Do not brush the teeth right after vomiting as the acid in the vomit would have made the enamel soft. Brushing at this instant would result in the scraping off of the already softened enamel. It is preferable to rinse the mouth with ordinary water or water containing a small quantity of baking soda as the baking soda counteract the effect of the acid. Occasionally, you can use sodium fluoride mouth rinse as they help reinforce the enamel.

Apart from acid erosion, other signs will tell a dentist or hygienist that you are suffering from an eating disorder. In extreme cases, enlargement of the salivary gland occurs, resulting in the swollenness of the parts of the face that are under the ear. Using either your fingers or objects to make you gag could result in the inflammation of the upper part of the mouth, the throat and the back of the tongue.

Only a few percentages of people suffering from Anorexia (about 20%) experience tooth erosion. There are several other signs they present with, and generally, they are malnourished, and this can increase their chances of having tooth decay and gum disease.

People suffering from an eating disorder should not hesitate to seek help from a health care professional to get a lasting solution to their problem and lead a healthy life. You can also visit the National Eating Disorders Association for some helpful information.

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