Severe Dental Erosion Linked to Eating Disorders

Eating disorders have the potential to destroy not only your body and mind but also your mouth, according to a clinical study.

People with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia had significantly more dental health problems than those without one, including tooth sensitivity, facial pain and severe dental erosion, according to a study by researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway published in the February issue of the European Journal of Oral Sciences.

"When you vomit repeatedly, as with certain eating disorders, it can severely affect oral health," said Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation. "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."

Eating disorders arise from a variety of physical, emotional and social issues, all of which need to be addressed to help prevent and treat these disorder, according to the American Dental Association. Family and friends can help by setting good examples about eating and offering positive comments about healthy eating practices.

While eating disorders appear to focus on body image, food and weight, they are often related to many other issues. Referral to health professionals and encouragement to seek treatment is critical as early diagnosis and intervention greatly improve the opportunities for recovery.

To treat the oral health consequences of eating disorders, the ADA recommends patients maintain meticulous oral health care related to tooth brushing and flossing; rinse the mouth with baking soda immediately after throwing up to help neutralize the effects of the stomach acid; do not brush immediately after vomiting; consult with a dentist about specific treatment needs; and see a dentist regularly.

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