Eating disorders will influence oral health in a very negative way. In addition to being extremely damaging to the body at large, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can cause massive damage to the teeth. If you know someone with anorexia or bulimia, address the issue sensitively, but quickly. They are both serious problems that affect both and women.

The first step to dealing with these eating disorders is to understand and then recognize them. Bulimia, a compulsive disorder, is marked by daily (or even during every meal) instances of overeating, which is followed by self-induced vomiting. This process is known as binging and purging. Anorexia nervosa meanwhile is marked by a severe, sometimes crippling fear putting on any weight, the inability to maintain a healthy body weight, intentional starvation a desire to remain as thin as possible, and in the most troubling cases, self-induced vomiting (this is different from bulimia because of the lack of overeating).

Bulimia and anorexia both have similar results. The first and most obvious problem for sufferers is the serious and rapid loss of weight and body mass. Victims become depleted of the fundamental vitamins, nutrients and proteins that the body needs to grow and remain strong. Muscles deteriorate and bone mass lowers. Oral health is another victim of the destructive conditions. In the worse cases, the final consequence of either disorder is death. The importance of anorexia and bulimia cannot be embellished. It’s just that serious..

Self-induced vomiting is especially problematic for the teeth, specifically. Over time, it causes tooth degradation, which will lead to rotting and gingival issues. This is because of the stomach acid released by the digestive system. This powerful acid reduces food, but sadly, it does not exactly differentiate between “food” and “teeth.” As a result, tooth enamel erodes. Tooth enamel is the film that protects the teeth from the typical decay that happens everyday. Frequent vomiting also discolors teeth and disfigures them. This can result in experience cosmetic dental repairs later in life.

Eating disorders make the throat and mouth especially sensitive. Miuse and underuse weaken the throat and since a person with an eating disorder avoids food in general, things atrophy. People with these eating disorders generally try to hide them, but the damage should be clear to a medical professional. This includes dentists. If one has an eating disorder, it’s very unlikely, in fact nearly impossible, that their dentist won’t figure it out. A handful of the clues that give it away are mouth sores, very sensitive teeth, cracked lips, dry mouth and extremely tender saliva glands. Another consequence specific to bulimia is foul-smelling breath. This is because vomited food sticks in the mouth attracting bad-smelling bacteria. There are ways to mitigate the dental health consequences of eating disorders. Those with bulimia should hold off on brushing just after vomiting. Instead, they should use a fluoride solution as a rinse to quiet the effects of stomach acid. Indeed, using fluoride is is a must for anyone with bulimia or anorexia.

Of course, these physical protections do not get to the heart of the matter. Eating disorders cannot be fixed by anyone tangentially related to the victims of it. They are physiological issues that do need support and love, but ultimately it’s the sufferer who must let go of their behavior. Many sufferers are prone to relapse throughout their lives and some never recover. Even those individuals that do find the strength to recover from an eating disorder will still have a difficult road ahead. Their oral is no exception to this rule. Low self-esteem is certainly one of the root causes of bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. As such, even those who have conquered the disorders, may be prone to bouts of self-consciousness and depression because of damaged teeth.

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