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How Do Eating Disorders Affect Your Mouth?

How Do Eating Disorders Affect Your Mouth?

Some eating habits can wreak havoc on your body and your teeth. For example, snacking throughout the day can increase the risk of tooth decay. Sipping soda and frequent nibbling on snack foods increase the rate of harmful acid attacks on tooth enamel. And repeated binge eating — impulsive gorging or continuous eating — can do the same.

Eating disorders have the potential to destroy not only your body and mind but also your mouth, according to a clinical study. People with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia had significantly more dental health problems than those without one, including tooth sensitivity, facial pain and severe dental erosion.

Types of Eating Disorders

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating. All three of these disorders will have negative effects on the mouth.

The eating disorder bulimia nervosa not only harms overall health but also is particularly destructive to teeth. It involves secret repeated binge eating followed by purging — self-induced vomiting, fasting and use of laxatives, diuretics or diet pills.

Binge eaters consume a large amount of food very quickly. Although this temporarily may ease hunger, anger, sadness or other feelings, binge eating can create stomach pain and anxiety about weight gain.

The digestive system contains strong acids that break down food. When vomiting is used to purge food from the body, these acids attack tooth enamel. Repeated vomiting can erode tooth enamel severely. Over time, teeth exposed to stomach acids can become worn and translucent. The mouth, throat and salivary glands may become swollen and tender.

Anorexia nervosa is another serious eating disorder that is harmful to overall health and to teeth. It is characterized by an intense fear of weight gain, the desire to become thinner and an inability to maintain a minimally normal weight for height and age.

woman-eating-an-apple

How Do Eating Disorders Affect Your Mouth and Body?

All of these eating disorders will have negative effects on the body. The deficiency of vitamins, minerals and nutrients associated with these disorders can cause the body to shut down and fail to function properly. Potential health issues include:

  • Weight loss.
  • Hair loss.
  • Lower body temperature.
  • Constipation.
  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles in women.
  • Heart problems, kidney failure and possible death.

The negative effects of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies will also be reflected in the mouth. Furthermore, for those who purge by vomiting, stomach acids will cause damage to the teeth. The telltale oral signs of eating disorders include:

  • Dry mouth and enlarged salivary glands.
  • Cracked, dry lips and mouth sores.
  • Teeth erosion.
  • Cold and hot sensitivity in teeth.

Recommended Treatment for the Mouth

People suffering from eating disorders can seek care with Dr. Jaleel. Dr. Jaleel or our dental hygienist are trained to identify the oral signs of a serious eating disorder. They will counsel the patient on oral and bodily damage and recommend treatment by a mental health professional. Meanwhile, they will help alleviate the mouth and teeth problems from which the patient is suffering. For example, those who purge by vomiting are cautioned not to brush immediately after since this will enhance the damaging effects of the stomach acids on the teeth. Instead, waiting about a half hour to brush and using a neutral paste such as baking soda are recommended.