Eating disorders affect the health of over 10 million Americans. Those with anorexia starve their body while bulimics binge eat and purge. Both disorders affect emotional and physical health, and one aspect of physical health that is affected in particular is oral health.
- Tooth Decay: The stomach acids from purging erode tooth enamel, which can lead to decay. The National Eating Disorder Association has found that 89% of bulimic patients have tooth erosion. Anorexics are also subject to this problem because they have a tendency to consume acidic drinks like diet soda or fruit juices.
- Lesions: The body is constantly supplying nutrients to all parts of it, including the gums and other oral tissues. So when there isn’t enough nutrients because of an eating disorder, problems develop in the oral tissues such as bleeding or the formation of lesions.
- Tooth Sensitivity: Tooth enamel protects the inner parts of a tooth such as the nerve. When the acids from vomiting eat away at the enamel, teeth can become more sensitive to heat or cold.
- Saliva Gland Swelling: Frequent vomiting or the misuse of diuretics and laxatives can cause the saliva glands to swell and reduce saliva production. This creates a dry mouth which increases the risk of tooth decay.
- Tooth Appearance: Teeth not only can decay with erosion but can change shape (sometimes becoming thin and breakable) or color (often becoming transparent).
- Bad Breath: This can develop not only because of frequent vomiting, but because of a dry mouth (where there is not enough saliva to help wash away food particles).
- Osteoporosis In The Jaw: Individuals who have an eating disorder for a long time have a high risk of developing osteoporosis. This affects oral health if osteoporosis develops in the jaw bone, which can lead to tooth loss.