Eating Disorders Versus Oral Health

WHEN WE THINK of the damage that eating disorders can do, we probably first think of the psychological toll and life-threatening malnutrition. However, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia can also be very hard on the oral health of those who struggle with them. Healthy teeth and gums require a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in addition to regular brushing and flossing. Not eating well or enough is a serious problem.


How Malnutrition Harms Oral Tissues

Minimal food intake, which may be paired with compulsive exercising, purging, or even both, are characteristics of Anorexia nervosa. Anorexia harms oral health through malnutrition. The jawbones can develop osteoporosis without sufficient nutrients. This increases the risk of tooth loss.

Without enough fluids, the salivary glands can’t produce enough saliva. A lack of saliva often results in dry mouth. Dry mouth makes both tooth decay and gum disease more likely. In other words, we need our saliva to neutralize acids and wash away food particles. Finally, without the nutrients to keep the immune system healthy, the gums become more vulnerable to bleeding.


Bulimia And Acid Erosion Of The Teeth

Bulimia is an eating disorder. It’s characterized by overeating, then forcibly purging food through vomiting or laxatives. Bulimia puts strong stomach acid in frequent contact with the tooth enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. Despite this, it is highly vulnerable to acid erosion. It isn’t uncommon for someone struggling with bulimia to experience tooth discoloration, decay, and even tooth loss due to their disorder.


Protecting Your Oral Health

We all need good oral hygiene routines to keep our teeth and gums healthy, our breath minty fresh, and our smiles sparkling. However, it’s essential for those battling with or recovering from an eating disorder. Minimize exposure to acid erosion by rinsing with water initially and then waiting thirty minutes before brushing. It’s important to give the saliva time to neutralize excess acid. Brushing too soon can cause additional erosion.

Here are a few signs to watch for if you’re worried someone you love might be developing an eating disorder:

You Aren’t Alone in This Fight

An eating disorder is a mental illness. Recovery is often a long road that requires help and support. That could come in the form of sympathetic family members or friends, or licensed psychiatrists. Another great resource is the National Eating Disorders Helpline. Of course, your dentist is always here to help.

We’re invested in the health of our patients!


Learn more about eating disorders through the Canadian Mental Health Association.

You can also contact National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) on 1-866-633-4220.

Want to talk to a dentist about acid erosion? Head over to our appointment page to request a visit!




The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

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