How Eating Disorders Can Affect Your Teeth
Patients who have eating disorders sometimes do not know the tremendous impact it can have on their teeth. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia can affect teeth in many ways.
Anorexia is when an individual reduces their food intake so much that they do not get the require calories that are necessary for the body to function properly. This can also affect their electrolyte level which can result in dry mouth, which can increase the rate of decay of all of their teeth.
Saliva is important as it helps to “lubricate” the mouth and to move food along and helps in the first part of digestion. As food moves along and past the oral cavity saliva helps to “wash” your teeth. With less saliva, patients can have a lot of food adhering to their teeth, which can cause more decay.
These patients sometimes will suck on hard candy to reduce the amount of food intake while fulfilling cravings. The frequent intake of hard candy baths their teeth in sugar water, which will result in increased breakdown of tooth structure and an increase in tooth decay. These patients will tend to have a lot of cavities.
Bulimic patients tend to take in food and then purge/throw up their food in order to reduce the amount of caloric intake. If the resulting caloric intake is too low, these patients will have dry mouth, as well, and this will also result in an increase in tooth decay.
Along with an increase in decay due to dry mouth, the purging of food results in increased acid causing erosion of the patient’s enamel causing thinning of their teeth. Erosions can be seen on the backside of their upper front teeth and along the backside of the upper back teeth. The erosion of the patient’s enamel subjects the patient to an increase of decay between the teeth due to the lack of enamel protecting the teeth and leaving only the softer part of the tooth exposed. These dentin-exposed areas allow decay to form quickly.
Patients with eating disorders can benefit from the help of mental health specialists. These patients should also be seen by a dentist who is well versed in treating patients with eating disorders. Early intervention of dental treatment for these groups of patients is very important to prevent early tooth loss and other damage requiring extensive dental treatment.