Eating Disorders Take a Toll on Oral Health

Posted on August 29, 2013 in General oral health

It's a sad truth: More than 10 million teens and young adults in the U.S. suffer from eating disorders. Conditions such as anorexia and bulimia are dangerous to overall health, but they can also be extremely harmful to oral health.

Bulimia is characterized by eating binges, followed by an effort to get rid of the calories by using laxatives or forcing oneself to throw up. Anorexia may also involve induced vomiting. Stomach acid is extremely powerful, so repeatedly bringing that acid up into the mouth damages teeth and gums. In fact, 89 percent of bulimics have signs of tooth erosion. Visible indications that someone has been making themselves throw up over a long period of time include swollen cheeks or a swollen jawline, dry or cracked lips, and front teeth that look translucent or are worn down. Bulimia can also leave teeth feeling extremely sensitive to hot and cold foods.

Immediately brushing teeth with an abrasive toothbrush after throwing up can do more harm than good as teeth have been coated in acid. Instead, rinse with a solution of baking soda and water to help neutralize the stomach acid.

If you're battling an eating disorder, or have a child who is, don't be afraid or embarrassed to consult your dentist in addition to a medical professional. He or she can help you come up with a plan to protect those pearly whites or help restore them after treatment.