Millions of Americans, most commonly teenaged or young women, suffer from an eating disorder. More and more often, dentists are the first medical professionals to find signs of eating disorders in their patients. This is because frequent, self-induced vomiting (bulimia), and starvation (anorexia) have a noticeable impact on the teeth.
Dental Signs of An Eating Disorder
Over 90% of people living with bulimia will exhibit signs of tooth erosion. This damage occurs when stomach acid frequently comes in contact with the teeth and wears away the enamel. The teeth will be more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, may crack and chip, and can begin to appear worn or stained. Although acid in sodas, wines, and energy drinks can also cause tooth erosion, the damage in people with bulimia has a distinct pattern. The backs of the upper front teeth are the most damaged areas.
Unfortunately, enamel cannot be regrown. However, there are restorative treatments that can reestablish the appearance and function of teeth. These options include crowns, bridges, or veneers, depending on the severity of the damage.
In addition to tooth erosion, those who have bulimia will often suffer some damage to the throat, tongue, or roof of the mouth due to frequently inducing vomiting. The soft tissues of the mouth will also become irritated or reddened by the presence of stomach acid.
Because of a lack of nutrition, those suffering from anorexia may experience frequent dental cavities and tooth decay. It’s also important to remember that many of these disorders can overlap, causing all of the above issues.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please contact your doctor, or visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for information and support.