Eating Disorders and your Teeth
It is currently estimated that 10 million Americans are affected today by an eating disorder such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating. The consequences from such destructive eating habits range wildly and are dangerous to one's health. One of the first symptoms of pain and discomfort are felt from the damage done to teeth and gums. A dentist, such as Dr. Ken Versman, Dr. Doug Heller, and Dr. Eric Beckman, can be the first to detect these harmful changes and help someone dealing with an eating disorder make the first steps towards improving their health. Periodontal Associates wants to help you identify some leading eating disorders and how such habits can lead to gum disease and/or the need for dental implants.
Bulimia involves alternating periods of overeating (or binge eating) followed by purging. The fluctuation of high calories followed by expulsion is traumatic to the digestive system which includes the mouth. Purging the high fat and sugar contents of a binge can be done by self-induced vomiting, diuretics, and/or the abuse of laxatives. The most common solution for most is vomiting, and by doing so, the contents of food along with the acidic stomach juices are then exposed to the sensitive tissues in the gums and teeth. Studies have found that up to 89% of bulimic patients show signs of tooth erosion, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Although Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman can do many things to transform a smile, replacing enamel on teeth is not a possibility.
Anorexia involves restricting food and caloric intake in order to maintain a thin body image. This can also include the same habits as bulimia with binge eating and purging; however, persons with anorexia often starve themselves. In fact, anorexia is the highest psychiatric disorder resulting in death.
The negative side effects caused by both of these eating habits are destructive and obvious on teeth. With deprivation or purging, the body is robbed of adequate amounts of minerals, vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients necessary for good health. The weaker the body, the weaker the immune system and organ function. Periodontal disease (gum disease) is then harder for the body to fight off. The acid from the stomach breaks down any healthy gum tissues leading to gum loss, bone loss, and eventually the loss of teeth. Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman unfortunately have many patients that needed dental implants as a result of the acidic oral environment and lack of nourishment. Research studies have also shown that there is also a strong association between periodontal disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy complications and respiratory disease. With an already suppressed immune system, such conditions can be detrimental.
Salivary glands can become swollen and xerostomia (or dry mouth) can occur. Lesions on soft tissues may begin to appear and gums will often begin to bleed. The teeth may become more translucent as poor diet and a high acidic environment erodes the enamel. Enamel is irreplaceable and results in sensitivity to hot or cold. As enamel fades away, the teeth can then become more brittle which can result in future cracks and breaks. When a tooth becomes so fragile and painful, a visit to Periodontal Associates in Aurora is needed as the tooth may need to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant.
Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman, or your dentist, can be the first to spot these dangerous symptoms. In order to help persons dealing with such eating disorders smile again and keep their teeth strong and beautiful, Periodontal Associates wants to share some thoughts on how to treat the oral health problems resulting in these dietary habits.
- Patients who purge or vomit should never brush their teeth immediately after vomiting. Instead, rinse with baking soda to contrast again the high acidity from stomach juices
- Patients should be counseled on their daily oral and overall hygiene routine.
- Patients should have an oral exam to assess current damages done and future treatment needs to help fight gum disease, sensitivity, or replace severely diminished teeth with dental implants.
- Patients should be set up on a frequent recall or hygiene schedule at offices such as Periodontal Associates.
If you are concerned about a friend or family member or you are seeking more information regarding eating disorders and health concerns, Dr. Versman, Dr. Heller, and Dr. Beckman urge you to contact the National Eating Disorder Association. If you have suffered from a disorder in the past, please visit Periodontal Associates in Aurora, CO to maintain bi-annual exams and hygiene appointments. To schedule your next cleaning, please call us at (303) 755-4500.