Eating Disorders and Dental Health Issues

Eating disorders are a very serious health condition that can lead to poor physical, emotional, and mental health, and if a person doesn’t get the treatment they need, then an eating disorder can be fatal. And as if that weren’t enough, eating disorders can also cause severe dental health problems. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, have battled one in the past, or know somebody who is suffering from one, then here’s what you need to know about the effects on your dental health.

Understanding the Most Common Disorders

An eating disorder is a mental health condition impacting a person’s eating habits. Typically, in order for a person to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, they must have abnormal eating habits that are detrimental to their physical or mental health. The two most common kinds of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Anorexia is characterized by severely restricted calorie intake, food restrictions, and an obsession with weight.

Bulimia is a disorder where people will uncontrollably binge on large quantities of food and then purge in the form of vomiting, excessive exercise, or taking large amounts of laxatives or diuretics.  

Eating Disorders Can Lead to Malnutrition and Serious Dental Health Problems  

When an eating disorder carries on for a long time without proper treatment, one of the first results will be malnutrition, and this takes a huge toll on your dental health. For instance, a lack of calcium and vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis, and if this happens, your jaw will become weak. Because your jaw is a crucial support structure for your teeth, prolonged eating disorders can lead to tooth loss.

Another side effect of malnutrition is damage to the soft tissue in your mouth, which could cause your gums to bleed regularly. Without the right vitamins and nutrients from food, you’ll also be more susceptible to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Gum disease
  • Canker sores

Effects of Bulimia on the Teeth

Bulimia can be even worse for your oral health because while you’ll still experience the same issues brought on by malnutrition, you’ll also have to contend with tooth erosion. Vomit is highly acidic, and when you throw up, some of that acid stays in your mouth and on your teeth, where it can wear down your enamel and leave your teeth vulnerable to cavities, sensitivity, yellowing, and eventually tooth loss. Furthermore, if you brush your teeth immediately after vomiting, this can wear away enamel even faster because the acid softens the enamel.

Eating disorders take a toll on your entire body, and your mouth, gums, and teeth aren’t exempt. Dental health suffers greatly because of malnutrition associated with eating disorders, and bulimia can make matters worse by continually exposing teeth to acid. A cosmetic dentist can help repair teeth that have been damaged by the effects of an eating disorder, but it’s also important to seek help from a mental health professional if you’re currently struggling with anorexia or bulimia.

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