Millions of Americans, mostly teenaged and young women, suffer from some form of an eating disorder. More and more often, it’s dentists who are the first medical professionals to find the signs of eating disorders in their patients. This is because starvation (anorexia) and frequent, self-induced vomiting (bulimia) both have a noticeable impact on the teeth.
Over 90% of bulimia sufferers will exhibit signs of tooth erosion. This is because bulimia causes the teeth to frequently come in contact with stomach acid, which will eat away at the enamel. As a result, the teeth will be more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, may chip and crack more easily, and will appear worn or stained. Although the acid in sodas, wines, and energy drinks can also cause tooth erosion, the damage in bulimics has a distinct pattern. The backs of the upper front teeth are the most damaged areas in those suffering from bulimia.
Unfortunately, enamel cannot be regrown. However, there are restorative treatments that can reestablish the function and appearance of the teeth. These options include crowns, bridges, or veneers, depending on the age of the patient and the severity of the damage.
In addition to tooth erosion, people suffering from bulimia will often suffer some damage to the throat, tongue, or roof of the mouth as a result of frequently inducing vomiting. The soft tissues of the mouth will also become irritated or reddened by the continued presence of stomach acid in the mouth.
Because of a lack of nutrition, people suffering from anorexia may experience frequent dental cavities and tooth decay. It’s also important to remember that many of these disorders can overlap, causing all of the above issues at the same time.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please contact your doctor, or visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for information and support. If you believe your child is suffering from an eating disorder that could be damaging his or her dental health, please contact Piedmont Pediatric Dentistry here in Greensboro, North Carolina.