Anorexic and Bulimic Teeth – How Eating Disorders Affect Dental Health

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About 24 million American men and women suffer from some type of eating disorder. Women are most commonly affected, but men make up a significant portion of cases. Three major types of eating disorders are recognized. The most common is binge-eating disorder, followed by bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, which both are associated with serious effects on general and oral health such as acid erosion on teeth, mouth sores, and tooth loss. The definitions of eating disorders were revised in 2013 to reflect the following:

Revised Definitions of Eating Disorders

Diagnostic criteria for binge-eating disorder includes repeated episodes of eating very large amounts of food without attempts to prevent weight gain such as self-induced vomiting or laxative use. Binge eaters may also feel out of control or suffer feelings of shame or guilt for their behaviors. Eating when not hungry, consuming food to the point of physical discomfort, or eating alone are common. Bulimia nervosa manifests similar symptoms but also includes self-induced vomiting after eating to prevent weight gain. Anorexia nervosa, the most immediately life threatening of the disorders, has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric conditions. Victims often adopt extreme diets or refuse to eat. The self-starvation leads to emaciation and a number of serious medical complications. Anorexic individuals typically have a distorted body image and a pathological fear of weight gain.

Anorexic and Bulimic Teeth

The first person to recognize signs of an eating disorder is often the patient’s dentist. Bulimia effects on teeth are caused by frequent exposure of enamel to stomach acids contained in vomit; acids erode tooth enamel rapidly and lead to cavities, tooth discoloration, and tooth loss. Bulimic teeth typically look worn and yellow. In anorexic individuals, starvation leads to osteoporosis, which can weaken the bones that support teeth and cause tooth loss. Acid erosion on teeth and other anorexia and bulimia effects on teeth can be corrected with cosmetic dentistry, but treating the underlying condition is essential for restoring health and preventing serious medical complications.

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