Unfortunately, you may be part of the 10 million Americans that suffer from an eating disorder such as binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia. These disorders are not only dangerous to your emotional well-being, but they can also wreak havoc on your underlying health. Characterized by binge eating and vomiting to purge the food from your system, an eating disorder, such as bulimia, affects your mouth, teeth, and gums. Using this guide, you will understand how eating disorders affect your oral health and learn the best options for restoring your smile.
Oral Health Effects
Binge eating and vomiting decreases your body's intake of important vitamins and minerals. This causes a great deal of damage to your overall energy and health, but it can also damage your mouth, teeth, and gums.
Eating disorders affect your oral health in the following ways:
Cavities and Decay – Many people suffering with eating disorders binge on unhealthy sugar food, which increases the amount of plaque buildup on the teeth and gums. Unfortunately, this can lead to cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Damaged Enamel – Binging and vomiting can also damage the surface enamel of your teeth, since vomit contains stomach acids. This acid erodes the protective enamel, increasing your risk of staining, decay, and infections.
Pain – Eroded enamel exposes the nerves, which can make your teeth very sensitive when eating and drinking. For many people, this can be painful. In addition, the acids from vomiting can create painful sores inside your mouth.
Grinding, Clenching – Living with an eating disorder can be stressful, so you may be finding relief for this anxiety by grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw. This creates stress on your teeth, increasing your risk of tooth decay, pain, and issues with your bite.
Reduced Saliva – While surprising to hear, saliva is an imperative part of your oral health, since it helps wash food particles and bacteria out of your mouth. Unfortunately, the acidic nature of vomiting decreases your mouth's natural production of saliva. Over time, this can cause dry mouth, creating an appealing space for bacteria growth.
Treating the Dental Damage
After seeking treatment for your eating disorder, visit a dentist to determine the best course of action to repair your smile. Your dentist will conduct a complete exam before suggesting treatments based on your smile's specific needs.
If your eating disorder caused severe damage to your tooth enamel, your dentist may recommend an application of fluoride. While effective, continuous applications are necessary for a complete restoration of your surface enamel.
To treat infections and mouth sores, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics and antibacterial ointments. These will not only heal the infections and sores, but also reduce the pain and discomfort in your mouth.
Unfortunately, severe dental damage may cause you to lose one or more teeth. In these situations, your dentist may recommend dental implants to permanently restore your smile. During the process, your dentist surgically implants a titanium rod into the missing tooth's socket. Then, fabrication begins on an artificial tooth that appears similar to your natural teeth. When complete, the artificial tooth is connected to the titanium rod.
While this is a great option for restoring your smile, it requires an investment of time and money. To protect this investment, you should continue therapy and treatment for your eating disorder.
Living with an eating disorder affects your underlying emotional, physical, and oral health, but help is available. Using this guide and the help of your doctor and dentist, you will understand the oral damage of eating disorders and learn the best option for a smile restoration.