Eating disorders are serious psychological illnesses, characterized by distorted body image, preoccupation with food, and an excessive desire to control weight. These disorders may cause a string of severe health issues, including dental health complications. Here are some tips on what to do if you or a loved one is suffering from gum or tooth problems related to an eating disorder:
What Are “Eating Disorders?”
- Anorexia nervosa, characterized by deprivation of food
- Bulimia nervosa, characterized by alternating cycles of binging and purging. A person with this disorder may overeat and then vomit or use laxatives to purge the food.
Oral Symptoms of Eating Disorders
People who are suffering from eating disorders are often able to hide them. However, dentists can detect signs that point to an eating disorder, including:
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Tooth decay
- Bad breath
- Mouth sores
- Low production of saliva
Dental Health Effects
- Lack of proper vitamins and nutrition may cause gums and soft tissues to bleed.
- Restricted calorie intake (including use of energy drinks or low-calorie “fizzy sodas”) erodes enamel on teeth due to the drinks’ acidic content. The loss of protective enamel may lead to tooth decay or cavities.
- Nutritional deficiency can cause xerostomia (dry mouth), which results in gum swelling. This condition can eventually worsen, increasing the probability of developing gingivitis and other periodontal diseases.
- When vomiting is induced, stomach acids rise and come in contact with teeth. This acid is corrosive and damages your tooth enamel, making teeth brittle and weak. This can cause tooth decay.
- The increased presence of bile and stomach acid in your mouth causes staining and discolouration of your teeth, as well as halitosis.
Management of Dental Complications
Dental issues caused by eating disorders require immediate attention to help a person recover from an eating disorder. Oral complications can be managed with the help of a dentist.
- Do not brush teeth immediately after vomiting. Rinse your mouth with water and baking soda to neutralize the effects of stomach acid.
- Observe good oral health practices like brushing and flossing regularly.
- Be honest with your dentist about your eating habits and share if you have an eating disorder; s/he can help.
- Seek counselling or the assistance of a therapist rto address the psychological aspects of your condition.
If you have an eating disorder, seek the help of a caring dentist to protect your teeth and gums. Cosmo Dental Care in London, Ontario, is here to help. Call us at (519) 659-2767.