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Eating Habits That Can Harm Teeth

Some eating habits can wreak havoc on your body and your teeth. For example, snacking throughout the day can increase the risk of tooth decay. Sipping soda and frequent nibbling on snack foods increase the rate of harmful acid attacks on tooth enamel. And repeated binge eating — impulsive gorging or continuous eating — can do the same.

The eating disorder bulimia nervosa not only harms overall health but also is particularly destructive to teeth. It involves secret repeated binge eating followed by purging — self-induced vomiting, fasting and use of laxatives, diuretics or diet pills.

Binge eaters consume a large amount of food very quickly. Although this temporarily may ease hunger, anger, sadness or other feelings, binge eating can create stomach pain and anxiety about weight gain.

The digestive system contains strong acids that break down food. When vomiting is used to purge food from the body, these acids attack tooth enamel. Repeated vomiting can erode tooth enamel severely. Over time, teeth exposed to stomach acids can become worn and translucent. The mouth, throat and salivary glands may become swollen and tender.

Anorexia nervosa is another serious eating disorder that is harmful to overall health and to teeth. It is characterized by an intense fear of weight gain, the desire to become thinner and an inability to maintain a minimally normal weight for height and age.

People who experience bulimia or anorexia do not receive adequate minerals, vitamins, proteins and other nutrients needed for good health. This type of "diet" takes a toll on the entire body, robbing it of the fuel it needs and causing potential injury to teeth, muscles and major organs.

To keep your smile healthy, limit snacks and eat nutritious, well-balanced meals made up of foods from the five major food groups:

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

9/22/2008

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