Eating disorders and oral health are closely interrelated and can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or ethnic background. These pervasive mental and physical health issues impact our society. As per the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), approximately 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States will encounter an eating disorder during their lifetime.
Apart from adversely impacting one’s self-image, these disorders can also place stress on relationships, impede an individual’s academic or professional performance, and impact on one’s health. For individuals struggling with eating disorders, it is imperative to contact healthcare experts for assistance.
Let’s delve into the various types of eating disorders, primarily focusing on their implications for oral health:
Classification of Eating Disorders and Their Connection to Oral Health
1) Anorexia Nervosa: The Fear of Weight Gain
A person afflicted with anorexia nervosa experiences a fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight. The disorder leads individuals to engage in risky behaviors like excessive exercise and starvation in response to their perceptions of obesity. Some may resort to self-induced vomiting, laxative use, or enemas to rid their bodies of food.
2) Bulimia Nervosa: The Cycle of Binging and Purging
Bulimia nervosa shares the fear of weight gain with anorexia but adds a cycle of covert binge eating, which can occur multiple times a week or even daily. Many people with bulimia feel totally out of control during episodes of overeating, consuming thousands of calories. Individuals may resort to inducing vomiting, utilizing laxatives, or administering enemas to reverse their excessive indulgence,
3) Binge Eating Disorder: The Struggle with Overeating
Binge eating disorder results in recurrent episodes of overeating in both women and men. People who go through these experiences feel out of control and frequently have intense remorse or humiliation. Unlike bulimia, binge eating disorder does not involve purging behaviors. NEDA defines binge eating as occurring at least once a week for three months as part of the diagnostic criteria for this disorder.
The Impact of Eating Disorders on Dental Health
Eating disorders can significantly affect oral health. Without proper nutrients like vitamin B, iron, and calcium, gums and other soft tissues in the mouth may bleed easily. Iron deficiency can induce oral sores, whereas vitamin B3 insufficiency can cause canker sores, gum inflammation, dry mouth, and foul smell.
In addition to these issues, eating disorders can lead to degenerative arthritis in the temporomandibular joint in the jaw. This condition can result in discomfort, recurring headaches, and difficulty chewing. Frequent vomiting can also harm teeth, as stomach acid repeatedly washes over them, wearing away enamel and altering their color, shape, and length.
Recognizing Oral Symptoms of Eating Disorders
Dental professionals often detect the detrimental effects of eating disorders through oral examinations. The erosive effects of stomach acid on teeth and oral tissues during vomiting can manifest as worn-down and translucent teeth, increased sensitivity to cold, tooth decay, dry mouth, inflamed salivary glands, difficulty swallowing, and other oral health issues. Nutritional deficiencies associated with eating disorders can lead to problems like gum disease, jaw bone loss, mouth ulcers, and halitosis (bad breath).
Preventive Measures to Safeguard Dental Health
Taking proactive actions to maintain dental health is critical for those suffering from eating disorders. Here are some preventive measures:
- Adhere to a rigorous oral hygiene regimen, which includes routine brushing and flossing.
- After vomiting, avoid brushing your teeth immediately; instead, rinse your mouth with a baking soda solution to neutralize stomach acid.
- If you have cavities or weak teeth, consult your dentist for in-office fluoride treatments or prescription fluoride toothpaste.
- Your dentist may offer sugar-free gum containing xylitol or saliva replacements to combat dry mouth.
- Arrange regular appointments with your dentist to oversee your oral health and attend to any issues that may arise.
Seeking Help and Support
Those suffering from eating disorders or those who love them should know that help is readily available. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with Dentistry on Dunn: Oakville Family Dentist. Our experienced dental specialists are here to help you find the best solutions and answer any questions about preserving your dental health while navigating the challenges of an eating disorder. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey towards recovery.
Also Read: Health Problems Your Teeth Can Predict