One of the first signs of an eating disorder and often a give-away of a sufferer is poor oral hygiene. Not the typical minor dental issues that may result from skipping out on a few brushings, but on the contrary, the results of excessive brushing and stomach acids making contact with the teeth, as in the case of eating disorders.Dentists often get a first glimpse into the declining health of those struggling with eating disorders whether the patient admits to their eating disorder upon confrontation with dental evidence or in a preliminary form prior to their appointment (which is rare, unless the patient is already seeking treatment).
Dental erosion is the most common of dental effects that result from eating disorders. Erosion occurs when the teeth have been continually exposed to erosive acids and the enamel on the inward side of the teeth becomes worn away.
Progressive dental erosion leads to more troubles such as upper teeth becoming smaller, front teeth becoming shorter and a thinning out of the teeth that causes easy breakage. Nerves of teeth become exposed, causing sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, as well as sweet products and eating becomes a painful experience.
Vomiting and the stomach acids released into the mouth in the process is often the cause of dental erosion in eating disorders; but acids found in acidic fruits and juices, as wells soft drinks and fermented foods can do erosive damage as well. Therefore, eating disorders that do not involve purging can result in dental erosion also.
Damages of Dental Erosion and Eating Disorders
Eating disorders can cause many more oral issues, aside from erosion of tooth enamel. Here are a few of the problems that can result:
- A decrease in saliva secretion, causing dry mouth.
- Numerous cavities.
- Gum infections.
- Raised fillings, appearing higher than the teeth as a result of enamel wearing away.
- Sore throats.
- Burning tongue.
- Altered bite, causing the bottom teeth to hit the roof of the mouth.
- Swollen Parotid gland as a result of continual self induced vomiting (the parotid is the largest salivary gland and causes “puffy cheeks”; it can be damaged beyond repair, leaving a change in facial structure).
- Loss of teeth
Dealing with Dental Erosion and Eating Disorders
Many of the oral problems presented by problem eating are reversible and preventable. The best way to resolve dental destruction is to resolve the eating disorder that has caused them. However, there are damages that cannot be reversed, and some may require expensive prosthetic and oral surgeries.
Here are some tips to help you deal with dental erosion and your eating disorder:
- Do not avoid visiting your dentist; many sufferers of eating disorders try to escape routine check-ups because they are aware of the Dental hygienist’s knowledge of eating disorders and their part in dental erosion. Your dentist is not there to judge you, though they may suggest treatment for your eating disorder, they will help you to better care for your teeth, determine any necessary dental procedures and take preventive measures.
- Do not brush your teeth after vomiting, this scrubs acidic solution into teeth and promotes dental erosion of tooth enamel.
- Do rinse your mouth out with baking soda and water to raise the pH level within your mouth and neutralize the acid.
- Over-the-counter fluoride tablets and mouthwashes also protect teeth enamel from damaging acids and can help resolve dry mouth.
- Do speak with your physician about treating your eating disorder, as well as a nutritionist and behavioral counselor