It’s no secret that certain behaviors can affect a person’s dental health, but many people are surprised to hear that those with eating disorders are more likely to suffer dental health problems. There are estimates that place the number of sufferers of eating disorders into the millions, and it is even suggested that this number could higher than projected because of the number of people who try to keep eating disorders to themselves.
Many of the dental health problems that are commonly associated with anorexia and bulimia are sensitive teeth, severe dental erosion, and facial pain. This was found in a recent study conducted by the University of Bergen Norway. The study showed that as many as one in three patients suffered from severe dental erosion due to complications of their eating disorder. Those in the study who suffered from an eating disorder also reported to the researchers that they commonly experienced severe facial pains along with dry mouth and increase dental sensitivity on a daily basis.
The Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr. Nigel Carter, released a statement about the study. He explains some of the reasons why eating disorders will often predispose a person to poor oral health and he also offered some helpful oral health advice for sufferers of eating disorders. He explained that often the cause of such dental health difficulties is the fact that people who suffer from eating disorders are vomiting frequently.
“When you vomit repeatedly, as with certain eating disorders, it can severely affect oral health. The high levels of acid in the vomit can cause damage to tooth enamel. Acid attacks of this sort on a frequent basis means the saliva in your mouth won’t have the opportunity to naturally repair the damage done to your teeth by the contact with the acidic vomit, hence the increased severity of dental erosion witnessed in the study,” said Carter.
And though the best way to improve oral health for those suffering from eating disorders is for them to seek help for their disorder, however for many reasons both personal and practical this is not always an available option for them. For sufferers who do not have the option of seeking help, Dr. Carter offers some help to reduce tooth enamel erosion. “People suffering with an eating disorder should look to, wherever possible, rinse their mouth as soon as possible after vomiting to help reduce acid effects,” he says.
“Do not brush immediately after vomiting, as this may brush away softened enamel. The use of fluoride toothpaste will help to protect teeth over time, and by chewing on sugar free gum it will help to increase saliva flow and neutralize acids in the mouth. Your dentist can also prescribe high strength fluoride toothpaste, which will help to protect your teeth. We would highly recommend more frequent visits to the dentist to ensure the problem does not deteriorate further and to identify whether any treatment would be required. If the problem persists, don’t be afraid to discuss your problems.”
There are many care and support groups available to sufferers of anorexia and bulimia. These groups will often offer their own advice on how to maintain proper dental care while living with an eating disorder. If you would like more information on how we can help you manage your oral health please visit our contact us page or call 704-759-0908!