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Eating Disorders and the Severe Impact on Oral Health

Dentist having conversation with patientEating disorders are diseases that truly know no gender, age or specific type of person. While adult women and teenagers most commonly suffer, diseases like bulimia, anorexia and compulsive overeating can affect anyone.

Illnesses such as this can have many negative impacts on someone’s physical and mental health. West Willow Family Dental knows that these issues can have an especially big impact on is a patient’s oral health.

The effects can be dire. An illness doesn’t need to include vomiting to be bad for your teeth and gums. Heavily restrictive diets can be extremely unhealthy for your oral care as well. In fact, the National Eating Disorders Association estimates that up to 89 percent of bulimia patients show signs of early tooth erosion. Many other studies show similar findings with extremely restrictive diets.

A big reason some of these disorders can be so harmful is due to the loss of proper nutrition, which will cause gums and other soft tissue to bleed more easily. Saliva production may be affected, leaving a sufferer with chronic dry mouth.

If a patient regurgitates on a consistent basis (known as purging), they stand a greater chance of harming a tooth’s enamel due to the stomach acid. Teeth can also change in color, size and length, leaving them brittle. This makes regular eating and everyday life extremely difficult.

Some signs of an eating disorder can include:
- Lesions on the surface of teeth within six months of the onset of the illness
- Teeth can become translucent and weak
- Increased sensitivity to temperature of food and liquid
- Exposed pulp and possible pulp death
- Enlarged salivary glands or dry mouth
- Tooth decay
- Sudden pain in random areas of the mouth

How we can help
Visits to the dentist can be helpful in diagnosing and stopping eating disorders in their tracks. In fact, the Institute for Dental Research said 28 percent of bulimia cases are initially diagnosed during a dental exam. A patient may not even realize that what they are doing is a problem; we will be there to help guide them to the help they need.

Our professional staff at West Willow Family Dental will be able to tell if a patient has been purging for years or has recently started, as they can view the damage done to teeth. They will be looking for tooth decay, enamel erosion, chronic sore throat, abnormal jaw alignment, cracked lips and mouth sores, among other issues.

If you or someone you care about is being affected by an eating disorder, it is essential to get them help as soon as possible. These diseases are life threatening if not properly treated.

It is important to treat a situation with care when confronting a loved one. These issues are not always as simple as they seem; it is important to be sure your loved one gets diagnosed and treated as soon as possible so that they can make a full recovery, but be sure to bring it up to them in a nonjudgmental, caring way. That could make the difference between them getting help and continuing on a destructive path.


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