Eating Disorders and Your Teeth

Eating disorders are very damaging and dangerous to your health. Many people do not understand the eating-disorder-and-teeth - Caroline Wallacedamage that can be done to your teeth and jaw due to eating disorders. Some of the damage cannot be repaired. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that more than 10 million Americans suffer with an eating disorder.

Anorexia, due to the lack of proper nutrition, can cause or contribute to osteoporosis. This can cause the jaw and surrounding bones to become weak. This, in turn, often leads to loss of teeth. Typically, these teeth need to be removed. Due to the weakening and loss of bone, dental implants may not be an option in some cases. Implants must be anchored in the bone.

Bulimia and Purging create a different set of problems for oral health. Vomiting brings stomach acids into the mouth. The acids belong in the stomach, where they break down food so it can be digested. When these destructive acids enter the mouth, they cause corrosive damage to the enamel that covers the teeth. Erosion of tooth enamel often results in darkening of the teeth, changes in the shape and the length of the teeth, sensitivity, and loss of the tooth or teeth. In particular the edges of the teeth will become quite thin and chip or break.

It is important to remember that tooth enamel cannot be replaced. Unless aggressive dental treatment is sought to provide other means of protecting the teeth, those affected teeth will be lost.

The steps that can be taken in order to mitigate the damage from stomach acid are somewhat counterintuitive. Most of us assume that stomach acid should be removed from the mouth with immediate brushing. This is not the best response; brushing will add abrasion of the enamel to the damage from the stomach acid. Instead, rinse your mouth thoroughly with baking soda and water. This will help to mitigate the effects of the stomach acid. Then continue to brush twice daily.

If you have an eating disorder it is important to:

1.      Brush and floss carefully and thoroughly, as recommended by your dentist.

2.      See your dentist regularly.

3.      Discuss your eating disorder with your dentist. She may have other specific instructions. She will also be able to help you discuss appropriate treatments to maintain oral health. 

To your oral health!