The consequences of an eating disorder to a person’s health can be dramatic: bones become weakened due to a depletion of calcium; skin bruises easily without the proper vitamins; critical bodily organs like the kidneys begin to shut down; and much, much more. Added to this long list are the harmful effects on a person’s oral health. Although both of the major types of eating disorders – bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa – negatively impact the mouth and teeth by causing nutritional deficiencies, bulimia is especially destructive. This type of disorder is characterized by repeated binge eating, followed by purging through the use of vomiting, laxatives, and other methods. Not surprisingly, research has found that repeated, self-induced vomiting can cause erosion of tooth enamel. The strongly acidic nature of a person’s stomach acid leads to a host of other oral problems, not the least of which is tooth decay.
In addition, the American Dental Association reports that patients with bulimia often have translucent-looking teeth and a swollen mouth. Bad breath is another common sign. According to the American Dental Association, “Over time, this loss of tooth enamel can be considerable, and the teeth change in color, shape and length. They can also become brittle, translucent and sensitive to temperature. The salivary glands may swell, causing the jaw to widen and appear squarish. Lips may become reddened, dry and cracked, and the patient may also experience chronic dry mouth.” If you suspect your child may be showing symptoms of an eating disorder, or you just want to learn more about its effects on oral health, talk to a dentist on your True Dental Discounts, dental plan. He or she can give you more in-depth information and perform an oral exam to look for signs of enamel erosion.