Eating Disorders & Your Oral Health
The first signs of a problem show up in your mouth. Learn what they are and what to do.
Bulimia and anorexia are often called “silent diseases” because they’re often hidden from family and friends. But the damage they cause to the mouth isn’t as easy to hide.
People with bulimia or anorexia usually show signs of the disease in their mouths. These include:
- Swollen mouth, throat and salivary glands
- Dry mouth
- Tooth discoloration
- Bad breath
Bulimia is a potentially life-threatening disease that compels its victims to binge eat, then purge food through frequent vomiting.
Vomiting is especially hard on teeth. Harsh stomach acid coats the mouth and destroys tooth enamel, the outer protective layer of the tooth. Worn enamel increases the risk of tooth decay and eventually leads to tooth loss. In addition, dental work such as fillings or crowns could be weakened by frequent vomiting.
Anorexia sufferers intentionally starve themselves because they fear weight-gain. Like bulimia, it is usually brought on by poor self-image. When the body is starved of food nutrients, the mouth withers. The jawbone can weaken from osteoporosis, and that loosens teeth and leads to tooth loss.
Important: If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, counseling and medical help should be your first priority. Tooth restoration or cosmetic dentistry should begin after the disorder is under control.