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Eating disorders put teeth at risk

Teeth can be part of the major fallout that follows the onset of a dangerous eating disorder.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week—Feb. 24-March 2—is an effort to raise awareness of the dangers of illnesses such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and others.

“Eating disorders can also affect a person’s oral health,” says the American Dental Association on its consumer website, “Without proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue inside the mouth may bleed easily. The glands that produce saliva may swell and individuals may experience chronic dry mouth.”

Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. They are complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships, NEDA says.

According to the ADA, tooth surfaces are put in jeopardy during the course of some of these diseases when sufferers purposely empty the contents of their stomachs through their mouths. Teeth are then exposed to corrosive gastric acids from the stomach. The acid may cause teeth to become worn, thin and translucent. Ultimately, teeth can become brittle and chip very easily from the erosion.

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. To learn more about the particulars of eating disorders, including where to find help and support, visit

For more resources from the ADA on how eating disorders endanger teeth and how sufferers can care for their teeth, visit Search for eating disorders in the search field at the top of the homepage.

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

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