Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders and your oral health

More than 10 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, putting their oral health and overall health at risk.

Eating disorders that can damage your oral health include:

  • Anorexia: limiting eating to the point of starvation
  • Bulimia: excessive eating followed by purging
  • Binge eating: excessive eating without purging

Dentists and dental hygienists are on the frontline of spotting these disorders because changes in the mouth are often the first physical signs of an eating disorder.

Signs of an eating disorder may include:1

  • Gum disease: gums bleed easily due to malnutrition
  • Increased cavities: people use candy and sweetened drinks for energy and to stop feeling hungry
  • Brittle or weak teeth: obvious changes occur in the color, shape and length of teeth
  • Loss of dental enamel from self-induced vomiting: stomach acid eats away at tooth surfaces

Because these conditions can be painful, people often visit dental offices for relief. That’s why a dentist may be the first health professional to see what is happening.

Getting professional help for an eating disorder is very important. The earlier treatment begins, the better chance there is for recovery.

This information is available for download as an oral health flier.

1 University of Washington and Washington State Oral Health Program, “Adults with Eating Disorders. Oral Health Fact Sheet for Dental Professionals,” web.

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