From the National Eating Disorders Association comes a little-known fact: Up to 89 percent of patients with bulimia nervosa show signs of tooth erosion.
Specifically, patients can suffer erosive lesions throughout their mouth, and teeth can become brittle and translucent, sometimes dramatically shrinking in size.
Don’t believe it?
Check out the alarming photographs taken by dentist Craig A. Mabrito on the PDF “Eating Concerns and Oral Health,” available from NEDA’s website at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
“Dietary habits can and do play a role in oral health,” emphasizes the NEDA information sheet. Dental problems arise from constant regurgitation, a high intake of diet sodas and other acidic foods, and generally restrictive dietary habits.
“The harmful habits and nutritional deficiencies that often accompany disordered eating can have severe consequences on one’s dental health,” the NEDA adds.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for dentists and hygienists to spot an eating disorder. And often, individuals first seek help for their eating disorders after recognizing the pain and discomfort of dental complications.
Of the three major psychological eating disorders -- anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder -- bulimia is the one that most often causes dental problems.
The Cleveland Clinic defines bulimia nervosa as episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate methods of weight control, including vomiting, fasting, using enemas, using laxatives and diuretics to excess, and compulsive exercising.
Amid the many physical and emotional outcomes of bulimia nervosa, dental problems cannot be underestimated. In fact, certain symptoms can appear in as little as six months after the start of the eating disorder.
Health care professionals look for:
- Erosion of tooth enamel caused by the repeated exposure to the stomach’s acidic contents through purging
- Dental cavities
- Unprovoked pain within a particular tooth
- Changes in the color, shape and length of teeth
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold food