Eating Disorders and How it Affects Oral Health

Did you know that dietary habits can and do play a role in oral health? Changes in the mouth are oftentimes the first physical signs of an eating disorder and the harmful habits and nutritional deficiencies that often accompany disordered eating can have severe consequences on one’s dental health.

Based on a new study published in the Journal of Periodontology

Patients diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia have significantly worse periodontal conditions and poorer oral health-related quality of life, such as physical and psychological limitations

Consider this … A bulimic individual engages in a cycle of binge eating and vomiting. The stomach acids in the vomit pass through the mouth and can erode tooth enamel, causing cavities, discolouration and tooth loss.

Since teeth appear worn and yellow, a dentist may be the first to notice signs of this eating disorder. Cosmetic dentistry can help correct deteriorated tooth enamel.

Semi-starvation deprives the body of the nutrients it needs

In this case for people suffering anorexia, semi-starvation deprives the body of the nutrients it needs. Osteoporosis can develop, weakening the bones in the jaw that support teeth, leading to tooth loss.

In both diseases, it is critical to treat the underlying causes that lead to anorexia and bulimia as well as the dental complications resulting from them. While a dentist can correct the deteriorated tooth enamel, he or she cannot treat the actual eating disorder. Should you have an eating disorder —or think you might —talk to your physician.

The most common dental effects of eating disorders

According to research from National Eating Disorders.org, the Dental Issues caused by Eating Disorders are as follows:

  • Without the proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue inside your mouth may bleed easily. The glands that produce saliva may swell. Individuals may experience chronic dry mouth. 
  • Food restriction often leads to nutritional deficiency. Nutrients that promote oral health include calcium, iron and B vitamins. Insufficient calcium promotes tooth decay and gum disease; even if an anorexia patient does consume enough calcium, they also need enough vitamin D to help the body absorb it. Insufficient calcium promotes tooth decay and gum disease; even if an anorexia patient does consume enough calcium, they also need enough vitamin D to help the body absorb it. Insufficient iron can foster the development of sores inside the mouth. Insufficient amounts of vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) can contribute to bad breath and the development of canker sores. Gums can become red and swollen—almost glossy-looking—which is often a sign of gingivitis. The mouth can also be extremely dry, due to dehydration, and lips may become reddened, dry and cracked.
  • Degenerative arthritis within the temporomandibular joint in the jaw is a dental complication often associated with eating disorders. This joint is found where the lower jaw hinges to the skull. When arthritis begins in this joint it may create pain in the joint area, chronic headaches and problems chewing and opening/closing the mouth.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our article and insights on Eating Disorders and How it Affects Oral Health. If you’re looking to learn more about how to help your practice thrive – be sure and download our FREE 43-page Report on Increasing Case Sizes and Collections.

Hi, I'm Viennie and I'm the Social Media and Email Marketing Manager at OneMedAll. I am also a contributing Author to our company's website. Typically I will write about educational articles related to dentistry, interviews of Speakers from different events (such as: CDA, ADA, AGD, or IAOMT). Besides Social Media and Email Marketing, I also have a passion for creating thoughtful content that crafts a narrative without any words needed. This can be seen on our social channels such as: Instagram and Facebook. Definitely check out our YouTube if you'd like to learn more and see our interviews!

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